Therapy for seniors: Addressing the common issues of aging
If you’re part of the Silent Generation or a Boomer, then mental health probably wasn’t a part of your social discourse growing up.
This is pretty evident to me in discussions with my grandparents and even parents over family issues.
“Oh well, what can I do. Better just get over it and move on.”
For the small things in life, this may be true. But when it comes to tumult between important relationships and overall family dynamics, this approach isn’t helping anyone.
Thanks to more awareness of our collective mental health issues in the U.S., mental health is becoming less stigmatized and talked more openly about.
And with this, therapy is hopefully not seen as a weakness or only for those with something “wrong” with them.
Some seniors might have already found their way to a therapist and know the benefits firsthand. Others might take a little more coaxing and need more information before they see the importance of therapy for seniors.
Coincidentally, it’s also Emotional Intelligence Month, which in my opinion is an often under-appreciated skill.
Let’s take a look at what may be holding seniors back from seeking therapy and the common mental health problems that come with aging.
Some myths about seniors and therapy
We may think that seniors won’t recognize the good that mental health counseling can do in their lives.
Or maybe we think that our parents, grandparents or friends are too stuck in their ways to change later in life.
In an article about treating older adults, the geriatric clinical psychologist George Kraus addresses a few myths about seniors and therapy and highlights that older adults are an underserved, and growing, part of our population.
He makes the point that as a society, we often focus on the setbacks of aging instead of highlighting its benefits, such as greater wisdom, confidence and patience.
Most of the time, the elderly are addressing three main issues according to Kraus:
- Adapting to the biggest transition in their lives with changing health and social roles
- Coping with grief and loss of getting older and changing abilities
- Managing relationships with others
A specialized therapist can help recognize these common themes of aging and address them in an individualized way. And there are several articles and resources pointing to the effectiveness of therapy in your later years.
Different kinds of therapy for seniors:
Seniors can benefit from all kinds of therapy depending on their needs and any mental health issues they’re experiencing.
While recognizing the benefits of getting older, it’s also important to address mental health struggles common for the elderly.
There’s widespread ageism, depression and anxiety reported by older adults. According to Good Therapy, about 15% of adults over 60 have a mental health condition. This age group is also has the highest suicide rates of any age group.
What can a therapist do?
Here are a handful of different types of therapies available to seniors:
-Cognitive behavioral therapy- Involves using problem solving skills and trying to better understand the motivations of others.
-Pain management therapy- Can include building new ways to cope with pain and addressing the anxiety and depression that may accompany pain.
-Supportive therapy- This kind of therapy aims to improve or restore self-esteem.
-Sleep and relaxation coaching- Works to slow-down thinking and create more calm in the mind.
It’s good to come prepared to your first therapy session with goals in mind so that the therapist can better adapt their counseling to your needs.
How seniors can start therapy now
Once you or your loved one recognize the benefits of therapy, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get started on counseling.
The Institute on Aging offers counseling services and all the above types of therapies for older adults.
And even better? They offer psychotherapy for $50 a session for all clients. You can call the Institute at 415-750-4111 to get started.
Along the same lines, Open Path Collective offers affordable counseling on a sliding scale for those who need it. You can choose from a plethora of therapists based on your location and specific mental health concerns.
There’s family therapy, couples therapy and individual therapy, plus a range of other specialties. Their lifetime membership is $60, which gives you access to the platform.
The role home care can play in therapy
Caregivers play an essential role in our lives as we age. When your caregiver is also your partner or a family member, it could benefit you both to explore the option of therapy if you feel like your relationship could use the perspective of a third party.
For those who choose to work with hired caregivers or have the option, they can serve as companions and also to ensure that your loved one makes it to their appointments on time and keeps a handle on any noticeable mental health changes.
Check out our resources page on other ways home care companies lead to healthier seniors.
Megan Marolf writes about senior topics and outdoor recreation from her home base in Seattle. You can read more about her here.
If you or a loved one you know are looking for additional support during this time and are interested in scheduling a free in-home assessment, please contact SeaCare In-Home Care Services today! A SeaCare family member is standing by. 425-559-4339.