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Why elderly mental health is a bigger concern now than ever before

Why elderly mental health is a bigger concern now than ever before

COVID-19 has emerged as one of the deadliest viruses faced by humanity in recent times. Despite all the medical advancements, the world has been engrossed in a global pandemic for the last one and a half years now. The effects were unprecedented, and the healthcare infrastructure was caught off guard. This pandemic not only impacted the physiological well-being of the affected and others around but also took a toll on mental health, especially for the elder members of the family.

India, the home to the world’s second-largest population, fought the first wave of the coronavirus-induced pandemic quite effectively. However, the same cannot be said in the current conditions of the second wave hitting the 1.3 billion Indians. There are two battles that Indians are struggling with: keeping themselves safe and the other is to keep themselves sane, especially with the elderly population. The mental health issues amongst the old age population have been on the rise and are expected to increase until things settle down. Here’s why:

Restricted access and mobility

The nationwide lockdown imposed last year stranded millions of people away from their loved ones. While the millennials and the younger population chose to stick with their devices and connect virtually, things became difficult for the older generation. The restrained mobility and social interaction posed a new challenge for those who needed extra attention and care. In addition, the non-availability of attendants, domestic helps and obscured access to medical help pushed a large section of the elderly population on the verge of mental breakdown. 

This year, the conditions have worsened. With the conversations brimming with health complications and the lack of resources, the existing and potential morbidity apprehensions have amplified. This prevailing perception has an adverse effect on the mental health of senior citizens.

Signs of mental illness

The helplessness and anxiety induced by the surroundings only fuel the challenges faced by senior citizens. Mental health for old age has been an impending challenged as the number of elderly people reporting mental disease symptoms is gradually increasing. Having said that, mental health issues are still a stigma in our Indian society, and only a fraction of the patients actually acknowledge and reach out for medical assistance.

In this case, the younger population needs to take charge. If you have an older adult staying with or around you, just keep checking on them. You must look for the mental illness symptoms that they might have developed in due course of time while staying isolated and indoors.

Sudden behaviour change, loss of appetite, anxiety, breathing difficulty and hypertension are some of the early indicators of the deteriorating mental well being of a person. We, humans, are social animals. We are genetically programmed to live in families and between our loved ones. This pandemic has changed the societal structure in more ways than one could imagine. Hence, it’s imperative that we become more compassionate and empathetic towards our elder family members and pay close attention to their mental well being.

As per a recent report, “During the first week of the 3-week lockdown in 2020, the number of people seeking help for mental health issues increased by 20%.” Hence, the gravity of the current situation can be estimated clearly. So now the question arises: What should be the plan of action if you come across an old age person dealing with mental health issues? 

What can be done?

With the advent of digital mediums, several initiatives have been undertaken by governments and private authorities that provide online counselling and psychological assessments. Many of the services are free of cost and can be reached out with a phone call. Be it young or old; any person should seek medical help once they encounter mental health issues. The sooner medical attention is received, the better and easier it becomes for the patient.

Online counselling platforms have recently emerged as the mainstream solution, with professionals providing counselling and medical attention through video calls or telephonic conversations. 

One such organisation for the welfare of the old age population is Samvedna Senior Care. They have one of the most qualified teams of medical health professionals who specialise in looking after elderly patients. Right from testing to online counselling and home care programs, Samvedna Senior Care offers some of the best and most empathetic elderly care services in the Delhi-NCR region.

The takeaway

Indian culture has always revolved around families and the presence of loved ones around, but this pandemic has changed every yardstick. With lockdowns, containment zones, and curfews in place, the physical, social distancing has become a mental barrier pushing the elderly members of society towards severe mental health issues.

Our collective duty and responsibility are to make sure that we look after them and provide them with the care they need and deserve while also maintaining a healthy lifestyle for ourselves. Of course, we should be cautious about any mental health symptoms that may appear in beloved elderly family members. 

However, if they are at a different location, we must be in regular contact with them, and if someone needs attention, it should be made available to them at the earliest. There are plenty of initiatives being undertaken to look after old age people and their mental health, and it’s our collective duty to help them reach out in time. The times are tough but only empathy and care will help us win.

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Samvedna Senior Care, G-7 Oriental Villas, Sushant Lok III, Sector 57, Gurgaon

Samvedna Senior Care, C-13 Anand Niketan, New Delhi