How Psychological Intervention Supports Mental Health in Elderly Loved Ones

Mental disorders can handicap seniors, preventing them from living complete lives. Here’s how mental health disorders can be treated to improve the well being of your loved ones.

Mental health is an important aspect of an individual’s overall wellness. However, managing your mental health becomes more difficult as you age. Elderly people can be susceptible to developing mood and other mental disorders. Predisposing factors in the elderly include social isolation and untreated physical or mental conditions.

Since ageing loved ones typically have existing medical complications, any form of mental distress should be addressed promptly to avoid further compromising their health.

In this guide, we discuss why mental health is essential in productive coping and daily functioning. We also look at the different medications that are used to treat mental disorders and provide relief for elderly loved ones.

1. Defining Mental Health

Mental health refers to the overall mental well-being of individuals. A person with good mental health displays the ability to manage their emotions, develop effective coping strategies, and maintain positive social connections. 

A mental health disorder can make it difficult for individuals to look after their well-being. Medical prescriptions and different types of therapy can help people cope with their conditions, when they are struggling with the effects of mental disorders.

2. The Importance of Mental Health

The strong link between physical and mental health emphasises that individuals cannot neglect one’s aspect of health without negatively affecting their overall health. When mental disorders are left untreated, physical health tends to decline due to impaired daily functioning. The consequences of mental illness on physical health are varied, ranging from loss of sleep, fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating to serious medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dementia, etc.  Discover more about the intricate link between mental health and heart health in our blog post here.

It has been observed that as patients enhance their mental health, they often also improve their physical health.  As their overall well-being improves, their relationships, performance at work tend to get a boost, pulling up their happiness level in an upward spiral. 

3. Factors that Affect Mental Health

Several factors may influence one’s mental health. Genetic predisposition can increase an individual’s susceptibility to responding in maladjusted ways when placed in stressful situations. The individual’s immediate environment may also be a source of stress and hinder them from seeking social and emotional support.

A number of medical conditions can cause mental disorders. For example, stroke can cause a mental illness in for the form of long-term side effect, known as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD (more on the long term side effects of stroke has been written on our blog here). 

A mental illness can be the consequence of another mental condition, especially when patients do not recognise the symptoms or promptly seek treatment. The most common ‘pairing’ is anxiety disorder and depression. Delaying treatment may encourage individuals to develop unhealthy lifestyle habits and coping mechanisms. Substance abuse, poor diet, and inadequate exercise are common coping responses that may be harmful to the individual and their relationships with others. 

Long-term stressful lifestyle and major traumatic life events may also play a role, triggering or worsening existing mental condition in some individuals. 

4. Symptoms of Mental Disorders

Recognising symptoms of mental disorders can help you support the mental health of your loved ones. Typically, mental disorders manifest as changes in behaviour that occur either abruptly or over a length of time. 

Some common indicators of mental disorders are:

  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Low energy levels
  • Mood swings
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Persistent negative thought patterns
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Increased substance use
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Withdrawal from social contact 
  • Extreme distress
  • Changes in eating habits (overeating or under-eating)
  • Changes in sleeping habits (insomnia or oversleeping)

5. Regulating Mental Disorders with Psychological Medicine

Treatment for mental disorders focuses on improving the psychological health of individuals. Specifically, they address the underlying issues that cause undesirable behaviours, negative thoughts, or unpleasant feelings. While there is no cure for some mental disorders, medication makes it more manageable by alleviating symptoms.

  • Antidepressants

Antidepressants are used to treat individuals with clinical depression. It works by restoring the chemical balance in the brain and promotes better mood and sleep regulation. 

Since the effectiveness of antidepressants varies, psychiatrists closely monitor patients for the first several weeks of treatment. If the patient shows signs of improvement, treatment is continued with regular reviews.

  • Antipsychotic Medication

People who are diagnosed with schizophrenia often experience delusions and hallucinations. Antipsychotic medication can reduce these episodes and alleviate feelings of agitation and unease.

Antipsychotic meds usually take effect within 4-6 weeks. The length of treatment depends on the number of psychotic episodes a patient has had. The more episodes they have experienced, the longer they will need to continue taking medication.

  • Benzodiazepines (Anti-anxiety Medication)

Benzodiazepines have sedative properties that aid in treating panic disorders, severe anxiety, and chronic insomnia. Since benzodiazepines are addictive, psychiatrists usually recommend short-term or intermittent use to prevent dependency. Uncomplicated insomnia treatment via benzodiazepines typically do not exceed 2 weeks. Panic disorder and anxiety treatments often do not exceed 4 weeks.

  • Mood Stabilisers

Mood stabilisers are used to treat bipolar disorder which is characterised by bouts of depression and mania. Mood stabilisers work by inhibiting the overstimulation of certain areas in the brain. Since bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment, patients need to take their medication daily to regulate their condition.

6. The Benefits of Improving Wellbeing

Although each individual has a baseline for happiness set by their genetics, improving well-being can raise these set-points gradually – encouraging individuals to live meaningfully and productively. 

Mental wellness programs engage patients in activities that elicit positive emotions. After receiving medical treatment and developing healthy coping strategies, this could result in:

  • Decreased anxiety and stress
  • Enhanced focus & concentration
  • Greater productivity
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved physical health
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Reduced risk of developing heart disease
  • Longevity

Aside from medical treatment, doctors often recommend a healthy, low-stress lifestyle to improve general wellbeing and prevent recurrence. 

7. Possible Side Effects of Medication

Medications used for treating mental disorders are safe as long as it is used as prescribed by mental health specialists. Throughout treatment, psychiatrists cautiously monitor a patient’s conditions to determine the effectiveness of the medication. If the patient does not  show signs of improvement, treatment plans are adjusted accordingly. 

As psychiatrists adjust their treatment plans, patients may experience mild side effects from particular medications. This may include:

  • Changes in sex drive
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss or gain

However, some medications may cause more serious side effects with long-term use. This is why such medications are often combined with other forms of treatment like psychotherapy or mental wellness programs. For many, the goal is to transition away from medication as the patient gets better at managing their condition.

8. Prioritise Emotional and Mental Health with Ninkatec

Mental disorders are emotionally and physically taxing on everyone, especially elderly loved ones. Although overcoming these mental obstacles is a tedious process, psychological intervention is available for the treatment and regulation of these disorders. 

As one of Singapore’s most trusted home health care providers, Ninkatec offers quality home care services for ageing individuals. With our team of medical specialists, we assist elderly clients by helping them manage their psychological health. We provide online resources to help patients, family members and friends better understand mental conditions, recognise signs and symptoms and get treatment early. Browse our other helpful articles on how mental conditions can be caused by heart disease, stroke or dementia; or how to differentiate anxiety disorder and normal anxiety, etc here.  

Working with our medical team at Ninkatec, patients will be given the guidance, assistance, and support you need to improve their mental health and overall well-being. Contact us for a consultation of an individualised care plan your own or loved one’s mental wellness today. 

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