The start of a New Year is a time that many people take stock of how to improve their mental and physical health. This past year was tough for many due to the pandemic, and most of the seniors I work with felt the impact of less social contact with their friends and family members, among other disruptions.
Amanda, the daughter of my 79-year old client Mark, was especially concerned with the pandemic’s toll on her father’s emotional and physical health. Mark lived alone and he’d had a fairly active social life before stay-at-home recommendations — and before some of his friends became severely ill with COVID. Amanda feared that her father was becoming too isolated. I noticed, during my visits with him, that he seemed to be more withdrawn. He mentioned he wasn’t sleeping well, his appetite was poor, and he’d lost some weight. He hadn’t seen his healthcare providers in months.
“I’d like for Dad to get back on track, to feel better,” Amanda said to me during one of our phone calls. “Do you have any ideas on what we can do?”
I had several ideas. The first was getting Mark assessed for depression, as he was showing some of the signs. Millions of seniors are affected by depression, and the pandemic has made mental health problems worse for many individuals. Mark was resistant to the idea of making an appointment with his primary care physician, but he finally relented when I told him I would accompany him to the visit. I also inventoried Mark’s medications and I saw some potential adjustments needed, which I could discuss with his doctor.
I also talked with Mark about exercise and nutrition. Before the pandemic, Mark had done his own cooking and was proud of his skills in the kitchen. But lately he hadn’t bothered making meals for himself; he confessed that he often skipped meals and was eating junk food at night. Until he felt ready to cook again, I arranged for Meals on Wheels to deliver daily nutritious lunches. Exercise was something else that had fallen by the wayside; Mark used to walk daily but had stopped going out. I talked with Mark about how the lack of fresh air and sunshine could impact his mood, and he agreed that he had felt better when he was taking care of himself. It was a vicious cycle; the less he did, the worse he felt, and the worse he felt, the less he did.
Last but not least, Mark needed to feel connected to other people, and he needed to feel that his life had purpose. We found ways he could safely volunteer to help other seniors in his community who were also feeling isolated.
Helping your senior feel their best is a matter of helping them improve their quality of life mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Strong connections with others, feeling useful, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating all contribute to a sense of well-being, no matter what your age.
If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at (203) 258-2640 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to assist!