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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and efforts are being made nationwide to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly in elderly individuals. It is often challenging to convince an elder to seek mental health treatment, as they may resist due to a lack of understanding or reluctance to address emotional concerns. Many older adults did not grow up in an environment where mental health was openly discussed, leading to feelings of shame and dismissal of emotional struggles as weakness.

At AgingParents.com, a nurse-lawyer and psychologist team often hear from adult children about their parent’s untreated mental illness or undiagnosed depression. Older adults may experience intractable sadness and feelings of isolation as they face life changes and losses in retirement years, but may not know how to seek help. Society’s attitudes towards mental health have evolved over time, with increased awareness and access to online resources and insurance coverage for mental health treatment. Public health officials encourage reaching out to trained professionals for support.

When faced with an aging parent exhibiting signs of depression, such as chronic pain, lethargy, or irritability, family members can take proactive steps to address the issue. Coordinating with other family members and researching local mental health resources is essential in approaching the conversation with the elder. Gently expressing concern and offering to help set up a healthcare provider appointment can be a starting point in persuading the elder to seek help.

Statistics show that suicide rates, especially among individuals aged 65 and over, are on the rise due to factors like grief, isolation, and declining independence. Seeking professional mental health support can provide coping skills and a sense of self-worth. The new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available nationwide for individuals in mental health crises, providing immediate support and guidance. Despite the availability of resources, some elders may refuse help, creating challenges for families in managing their own frustrations and setting boundaries.

The importance of self-care for caregivers facing difficult elders is emphasized, as caring for one’s emotional well-being is crucial. Mental health awareness is critical, and individuals are encouraged to utilize resources, take depression seriously, and support reluctant elders in seeking help. While challenges may arise when elders resist treatment, it is essential to prioritize both the elder’s needs and the caregiver’s emotional health.

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