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Celebrating Older Americans & Mental Health

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Dr. James D. Huysman

Caregiving / / May 11, 2017

It’s Older Americans Month and the theme this year is Age Out Loud, to give aging a new voice—one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.

This theme shines a light on many important trends. More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. What it means to age has changed, and OAM 2017 is a perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.

Many older Americans have embraced new careers and/or become artists, volunteers, and even avid RVers, traveling around our great country when and wherever they wish!

There’s a new activism afoot as well, harkening back to the takin’ it to the streets era of the 1960’s. Older Americans are making their voices heard and hitting the pavement literally and figuratively. Still more have gotten back to the garden.

Aging for these inspired souls, has broken free of the tired, timeworn, and traditional attributes of what “getting old” really means.

But we’re not all there.  Sadly, there are those among us who are suffering from old ideas, anxiety, depression, loneliness, loss and the effects of illness.

It’s also Mental Health Month and still we need to be reminded that mental health is a major component of health and wellness.

Even with the advancements in brain science and statistics that indicate the rise of anxiety and depression, stigma is still alive and well. Taunts of “psycho”, “whack job”, and “take your meds” are not uncommon from the playground to the retirement home.

Those who suffer from anxiety anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. With anxiety declared the #1 diagnosis in the field, statistics show that it's entirely possible for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. 

There is currently no way of knowing just how many caregivers, Boomers, and older adults are represented in current statistics. But here are some symptoms to watch for in your caree and yourself:

       1.    Little interest or pleasure in doing things                                                                        

       2.    Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless                                                                                 

       3.    Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much                                                                              

       4.    Feeling tired or having little energy                                                                   

       5.    Poor appetite or overeating                                                                  

       6.    Feeling bad about yourself -- or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down            

       7.    Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television

If you or your loved one are experiencing 3 or more of these for longer than a period of 2 weeks, it’s time to get medical help. You are worth it!

 

Resources for more information, which have contributed to this article:

Categories: Boomers, Caregiving
About The Author
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James D “Dr. Jamie” Huysman, PsyD, LCSW is well-known for his work fiercely advocating on behalf of family and professional caregivers. From running a national caregiver support foundation,contributing to the  AARP Foundation/NASW’s collective “New Guidelines for Caregivers of Older Adults” and co-authoring “Take Your Oxygen First”, to his expert videos on Caregiver Connections for UHC TV, he is a champion of behavioral health and a patient-centered medical culture that is prepared to meet the needs of those they serve.  He works as VP of Provider Relations and Government Affairs for WellMed Medical Management and was recently named an Advisor to the Caron Foundation’s Senior Treatment Program.

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