Caring for Aging Parents from a Distance: How to Assess Mental Health Needs

Caring for Aging Parents from a Distance: How to Assess Mental Health Needs

The isolation and fear as a result of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of the elderly, with nearly half of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their degree of stress and worry was negatively affecting their health. And even though it still may be hazardous to visit in person with older adults, it’s imperative to remain in regular and frequent contact, and also to look for any changes or signs that may signify a mental health concern when caring for aging parents from a distance.

As stated by psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

Additional symptoms and signs of depression to watch for include sleeping issues, loss of appetite, lethargy, and complaints about pain, which interestingly, can be one of the main signs of depression in seniors. Be aware of anything that is out of the ordinary for a senior’s personality and character.

It is essential to recognize that depression is not simply an unavoidable aspect of aging, and that it is a serious – but treatable – condition.

Here are a few further tips from our Windsor-Essex senior care experts that can help effectively assess an older adult's mental health:

  • Make sure the conversation is organic and natural, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what’s been happening in your life recently,” will entice an older adult to open up more than, “Tell me what the physician mentioned at your last appointment.” The aim is to be caring but not condescending, being mindful never to make an effort to parent your parents.
  • While talking with and seeing the grandkids on Zoom is a great way to boost a senior parent's state of mind, be certain that you provide for some one-on-one time for you to talk without children.
  • Give consideration to what’s going on in the background of your video chats for any additional clues, such as whether or not the house looks neat and well maintained, along with personal hygiene – disheveled, unkempt hair, as an example.
  • Consider whether substance abuse might be a factor. A rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is occurring in individuals of all ages, and may be especially harmful if there are potential interactions with medications a senior loved one is taking.

In the event that you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in a senior parent, be sure to contact the physician as soon as possible. Because you are most knowledgeable about the senior, you may be in a position to pick up on signs that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s crucial to make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, call the Windsor-Essex senior care professionals at Amy’s Helping Hands for additional assistance. We can serve as your ears and eyes when you are unable to be there in person, and provide a wide selection of customized services to enhance socialization and quality of life at home. Reach out to us at 519.915.4370 or online to learn more and to find out if our services are available in your area.