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(Are They Depressed?) Helping Your Aging Parent Improve Their Mental Health

July 10th, 2020

Loneliness is a big concern among older adults. It usually translates into other mental health issues; depression being the most prevalent one. So, while your parent might tell you “don’t worry about me, I am fine”, the picture could be much different in reality.

Now, this doesn’t mean you run up to them and ask countless questions. This also doesn’t mean you get over-concerned and do things for them like they are incapable. While they might need your support (and love), they don’t want to lose their dignity and respect.

Knowing your boundaries

Aging is not just about the body getting older; there are lots of psychological and emotional dynamics to it as well. So, while you are being considerate and caring for your parents, know your boundaries.

This is where helping your parents with their mental health gets tricky.

Even if they are showing signs of mental strains, you should not order them to Google “community mental health center near me” and see a counselor “immediately”. You do want to visit them and be with them. You do not want to check on them all the time. You want them to take better care of their health. You don’t want to order them around.

Understanding them better

Yes, they are your parents. You know them well already. On the contrary, while you may think you know your parents well, a lot of aspects and details might escape your attention as they age.

So, you must take proper – and non-intrusive – measures to understand them better as they age.

How are they spending most of their time?

Are they in touch with their friends and relatives?

Do they prefer staying alone or love being around with people?

Do they have a hobby that keeps them busy?

Are they going through any physical ailments?

Is there something that they want to do?

In casual conversations, ask your parents’ questions. But do not make it an interrogation. The objective is to not collect information but rather to understand them better. You can gain a lot of insights from their answers, as well as the overall lifestyle. This will help you figure out if they are going through any mental health issues or not.

Letting them know about options

If they are showing signs of mental health problems, you should let them know their options…

They can talk about their feelings and emotions with you.

They can do certain things to feel better.

They can go on vacation.

They can pursue their interest that you can help them with.

They can approach a mental health services provider and get professional help.

Remember, you don’t want to order them. Instead, subtly plant such options in their conscious and let them decide. The key is to let them know that they have the option to make themselves feel better. Then allow them to make their own decision.

Being there for them

In the end, whatever they choose to do, the most important part is you supporting their decision.

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Whether they decide to seek professional help from a counselor OR figure things out themselves to improve – you must respect their decision.

As a child, seeing your parents go through any problem can be difficult. But know that your aging parents are still capable to choose right, should help.

Allow them that independence or you risk triggering them in the wrong way, which can make the matter even worse.

Be with them. Spend more time with them without being over-concerned. Share some good moments regularly. Make sure they don’t feel lonely. Workout with them if possible. Do meditation together. If you share the same interest, do that thing together. At the same time, give them space and time that they still require no matter their age.

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