Why a Therapist Can Be So Beneficial To Seniors

by Bethany
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Aging is a natural and immutable process; something that we all have to go through. The process of aging brings about a decline in mental and physical health, in varying degrees. This is dependent upon many factors, including our lifestyle, environment, and genetics. As middle age approaches, we start noticing some telltale signs. The cracking of the knees whenever we bend over, frequent aches and pains, squinting to read fine print, misplacing things, and responding “huh” and “what” during conversations when you can’t quite make out what was just said to you. Some of us put up a valiant fight every step of the way through the years, while others decide to accept the inevitable and make the best of it. Some look forward to heading into middle age and retirement. For others, this stage of life is difficult and challenging.

A therapist can be beneficial to help seniors cope with the many changes they will experience during the transitions of aging. It may be difficult for some seniors to find meaningful activities and a sense of purpose to fill their days. Seniors that have debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s may face difficulties with basic needs and just getting through the day. The elderly also feel stress and anxiety regarding personal safety, as they are sometimes targeted because of their frailty.

A therapist can also help seniors distinguish between the normal effects of aging versus an actual mental illness or physical disease such as Alzheimer’s. Some degree of mental and physical decline is to be expected during aging, but a disease like Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, can lead to a considerable impairment in memory and mental function. Some other mental health issues affecting the elderly population include anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse. Therapy can help seniors to cope with and manage many symptoms of common illnesses that afflict the elderly.

Therapists For Seniors

There are many different types of therapists for seniors; a few of the most utilized specialize in occupational, physical, and psychotherapy. Therapists use physical therapy to retrain patients that suffer strokes; it helps them to regain mobility to do everyday tasks. This type of therapy brings back or improves strength, limberness, range of motion, stamina, and coordination. It is also useful for relieving pain from some types of cancer. For example, patients that undergo a mastectomy will need to perform the proper exercises to lessen swelling and make their range of motion better. Arthritis is one of the common illnesses treated with a variety of physical therapies, like electric stimulation and aquatic therapy. Osteoporosis is another; exercises are utilized for keeping an erect posture.

Psychotherapists help seniors to deal with issues specific to aging, such as transitioning into retirement and health effects of illnesses like dementia. They also help seniors with mental illnesses that affect people of all ages, such as anxiety, depression, and suicide. Suicide rates among the elderly are very high, and keeps increasing for men the older they get. Occupational therapists use a variety of methods to treat the elderly. They develop treatment plans, recommend various gadgets to assist with daily tasks, and provide support to those with disabilities. They also give advice in various areas, such as modifying homes to make them safer and more accessible.

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Work Out Mental Health Issues

The elderly endure the same mental health issues as the rest of the population, along with matters specific to their age and health status. Mental health issues aren’t are stigmatized as they once were, so more of the elderly population are seeking treatment. In times past, mental health issues in the elderly population were all attributed to aging and illness. In the present time, seniors can confidently seek treatment for common maladies like stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, as well as issues from their childhood or younger years. Those that suffer from illnesses like dementia and delirium can receive help with behavioral problems like aggression or verbal outbursts. Other conditions that are age related and treated by therapists include sexual dysfunction, insomnia, and lifestyle adjustments.

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Cope With Aging

Aging is not only difficult physically, but mentally as well, especially with the added stress of debilitating illnesses. Therapy can help seniors adjust to the unavoidable changes, and also show them ways to cope and manage their emotions through the transitions. Therapists can assist seniors with finding support systems and new ways to live a meaningful, purposeful, and joyful life. Aging will of course force us to deal with our own mortality, as well as the passing of those we love the most, but fortunately therapy is available, and has proven to be a very effective tool to help seniors come to terms with their fears and grief.

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Cope With Loneliness

Loneliness is a major cause of depression, especially for seniors. Many seniors are confronted with loneliness upon losing friends and their spouse, and they may lack a social network otherwise, to provide the companionship and emotional support that’s so important, especially at later stages in life. Signs of depression include sadness, despair, indifference, and suicidal thoughts. Suicide rates are high among the elderly, so any sign of depression should be addressed and treated. A therapist can help seniors learn how to cope with loneliness. If the circumstances are such that the senior chooses to be alone for whatever reason, a therapist can help them delve into these reasons to ascertain any harmful thought processes. Otherwise, suggestions can be made to seek out activities where they can socialize and make friends.

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Someone To Talk To

Many seniors feel isolated and may not have friends and family members available to them on a regular basis. People tend to get caught up in their own lives and may not reach out to their elderly family members, or may be too busy to talk for as long or as often as needed by the elder. This may trigger feelings of low self esteem, loneliness, and depression, for those that suffer from it. A therapist can not only provide treatment for health needs, but can also be someone for seniors to feel comfortable talking to. Being able to open up about what’s going on in their life and just speak their mind can help to improve their outlook.

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Professional Help

Some people who’ve never sought treatment for mental health issues may do so later in life, simply because people are living longer and have a lot more quiet time to reflect on their past, and things that were never addressed may still be affecting them. Seeking professional help is not as taboo as it once was and it can improve their quality of life tremendously. Seniors may benefit from professional help in many areas, as they are more prone to certain illnesses like dementia, that bring about a wide variety of symptoms. In addition, they may already have problems from the past that were never dealt with, or present concerns that cause stress or anxiety.

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Safe Environment

The elderly, even those in good health, are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of and becoming victims of violence because of their diminished capacities in sensory, as well as physical abilities. Those with age related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s are at an even greater risk. A therapist’s office can become a safe environment for them to open up about whatever’s ailing them, be it physical, mental, or emotional. Some seniors live in situations where they may be afraid to speak out for fear of some form of retaliation, so they don’t get the help they need. A survey done by the United Nations reported that almost half of the elderly population queried were afraid of personal violence, and had many occurrences of being disrespected.