As your parents age, they’ll require some physical care. 33% of elderly people trip or fall each year, with many of these incidents leading to head injuries, damage to the hips or broken bones. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 falls will lead to a serious injury. On top of the risk of trips and falls, elderly people require a wide range of other physical care to help with day to day living.
The pressure on carers, including relatives, can be immense. As older people need more and more support, care and attention, their loved ones can feel the stress and strain of providing physical care. In fact, the physical care can feel so time consuming and so essential that an elderly person’s emotional and mental needs can be pushed down the list or forgotten. Yet, the emotional care might even be more important.
The elderly and isolation
One of the biggest issues facing an older person is the issue of isolation, which may lead to depression. In part due to a lack of confidence and in part due to a weakening physical state, many older people find it difficult to get out into their neighbourhoods and to socialise as they once did. Other issues can add to a feeling of isolation, including hearing difficulties that make conversations hard to follow.
Worries about aging, fears about the future and deteriorating health will all have an impact on your elderly parent. Studies show that up to 13.5% of elderly people are living with depression, and that it’s most common in those that require additional physical care or hospital stays.
The link between physical and mental health
It seems obvious that physical and mental health can be linked. Poor physical health can lead to the feelings of depression and isolation, and can restrict someone’s ability to access services that can help them to improve their state of mind. Perhaps more interestingly, the same applies in reverse.
Poor mental health can lead to a deterioration in physical health. Depression, stress and anxiety can trigger headaches and blood pressure changes, a loss of appetite (and associated physical problems), and memory loss or confusion which can increase the risk of a fall or an injury.
Studies show that whilst keeping active is good for an older person’s mind as well as their body, it’s also true that staying social will help to reduce the risk of injury or illness.
How can you help?
An active social life and a focus on good mental health brings many benefits for an elderly parent. Included in these benefits is peace of mind, as older people feel safer and more secure if they’re active in their communities. A good mental state can also lead to fewer concerns about how long it would take to get help, if an emergency ever required it.
Good levels of mental health can come from physical needs being met, but there is far more to it. Encourage social interaction – bring the grandchildren over, arrange for days out and activities or suggest places that your elderly parent might like to go with friends – and also promote the use of quizzes, puzzles, games and mentally stimulating activities. A sharp mind is one of your elderly parent’s best tools for a happy, healthy retirement.