Senior Health

5/26/2021 | By Kari Smith

If you had heart problems, you would likely visit a cardiologist. If you had lung issues, you would make a pulmonologist appointment. But if you suspected you were suffering from depression or anxiety, would you visit a psychologist, therapist, or even your primary care doctor to seek help? Many seniors are hesitant to get help for their mental health, but there are so many benefits of counseling for seniors.

Causes of Depression

Depression and anxiety, along with other mental health issues, are issues that may require medical care; but many people are hesitant to seek that kind of medical care. Talk therapy is more and more commonly accepted these days, but older generations sometimes see counseling as unacceptable or even a sign of weakness.

However, seniors face many age-specific issues that may trigger sadness or depression – such as grief over the loss of a spouse or loved one, chronic or terminal health issues, retirement, or changes in domestic situation such as a move from independent living to a care facility. Even issues that may seem embarrassing or difficult to talk about, such as incontinence or impotence, may cause emotional distress. Even if these issues do not result in true depression, they are all difficult issues that would benefit from being talked through.

Depression Symptoms

There is a difference in sadness and depression. Although every person is different, those suffering with depression may feel excessively tired or sleepy; may have issues falling or staying asleep; or may seem irritable or anxious. They might also cry more often than before, gain or lose weight, or have decreased energy.

There are several types of depression, including major depression, persistent depressive disorder, psychotic depression, seasonal affective disorder, and even vascular depression, which is a physical condition that onsets later in life. All of these may present differently, and not every type may present with all of the same symptoms.

How to Tell If Your Loved One Has Signs of Depression

Benefits of Counseling for Seniors

So, what are the benefits of counseling for seniors? Psychotherapy can be customized to the frequency, length of time, and duration needed for each person. For a senior that feels isolated, simply having someone to share their thoughts and feelings with could be truly beneficial.

1. Focus on positivity.

Sometimes, it is easy to “get stuck” in our own head when difficult things are happening. It is helpful to have someone on the outside striking a balance between the very real, difficult challenges and the positive things that are still there. Having an outside viewpoint may be helpful in shaking feelings of negativity.

2. Accept changes gracefully.

Aging means change. Health may begin to decline. A once-independent loved one may be forced to move into a dependent living situation. For aging seniors, it may be more common to be faced with the grief of losing peers and loved ones. A diagnosis of long-term or serious illness may be difficult to accept. Speaking with a counselor may be helpful in developing strategies to accept a “new normal” and process the emotions surrounding the change.

3. Deal with trauma.

For those who have grown up with the teaching or mentality that problems are meant to be kept to one’s self, they may suffer from past traumas that will not “just go away.” Working through issues that may have transpired decades ago can be helpful and freeing, as well as improve current relationships.

4. Treat sadness or depression without medication.

If you are suffering with depression, a doctor may recommend an anti-depressant, but know that there are answers outside of medication. Talk therapy is a non-medical solution that be used with or without medication. You do not need to suffer alone!

5. Seek therapy on your own terms.

Therapy types are varied: typical office visits, video conferencing appointments from home, and in-home counseling services, so even immunocompromised seniors or those with mobility issues have options.

It is difficult for many to ask for help. If your senior loved one is struggling, understand that the stigma may be strong enough to prevent their wanting to seek help, but continue to encourage them. There are so many benefits of counseling for seniors. They are never too old, and it is never too late to try therapy. In fact, it may be the best and most painless form of self-care available at this stage in life.

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith