How Elders Are Affected By The Current Mental Health Crisis

- Advertisement -

High profile people are opening up about their mental health issues. Perhaps this would make discussion on the issue less stigmatizing. With famous and high profile people publicizing the struggle, our society can see that you don’t have to think of someone as “crazy” to need mental health help.

For the elderly, the pandemic has definitely created a more serious problem than before. Many elders were already battling isolation when Covid forced them to lockdown. From my own observations on, I still see a recurring theme: Aging parents aren’t making connections with others, aren’t getting out much and resist engaging in things that help. Can do They refuse therapy. Their adult children tell me older parents who are clearly grieving, “I’m not crazy. I don’t believe in psychology or anything like that”. They refuse offers of help.

- Advertisement -

Effects of Social Isolation on the Elderly

It is well understood in geriatrics that social isolation is bad for the mental and physical health of our elders. It gets worse when age-related limitations of mobility, hearing and vision loss compound alone, along with the decision to avoid exposure to a virus that has killed a million Americans.

- Advertisement -

With the pandemic, “isolation” became an everyday word, along with social distancing, staying at home, avoiding close contact with others, etc. Seniors who were depressed became more depressed. Lonely people felt the pain more acutely than ever before. The media has emphasized how these pandemic closures of schools have adversely affected our children. What is not emphasized in media reports is that these effects are on aging people already struggling with loss and loneliness.

normal loss associated with aging

People lose spouses and friends as they age. They may lose the ability to be independent in activities of daily living. He may have to give up driving. Experiencing loss and keeping those close to you alive is inherent to aging. Then some of the above had been cut off from social contact for several months. Too many veterans felt worse than ever, unable to go out for meals, or meet friends for activities, or even meet face-to-face with family.


The result is that many people do not have a specific plan for how to overcome the isolation they experience. They are sad. Drugs are offered and some find it helpful but it doesn’t fix the underlying problem – how to get over and stay connected to others and overcome unrelenting sadness. What can elders do about it?


Our aging parents grew up with a stigma about mental health. It remains. I think the words of a 72-year-old client trying desperately to help a dear friend in a nursing home are typical. He’s sad, angry, and doesn’t seem to have gotten over it. I asked him what he was going to do about the pain in his heart. He remarked that those words, “pain in my heart” were a good word to describe it. i know the classic signs of depression It shows in his conversation. He may benefit from counseling. I suggested that he consider therapy. His response was “I’ve never had counseling in my life and I’m not going to get it now”. He remains trapped in his own misery.

No one person can really push another person to get mental health help. We can suggest this. We can offer to conduct research to find suitable providers in the individual’s area. We may ask which providers offer telemedicine visits. We can point to one celebrity, athlete, or politician who made their mental health struggles public along with their efforts to seek treatment. We can continue to encourage therapy in person or via telemedicine. But we cannot show anyone a therapist. Their willingness to look within themselves and climb out of the dark hole of depression or anxiety or whatever it may be is essential to success. Some will stubbornly refuse to look inside. it’s very dangerous.

Depression and Good News About Hope

Mental health issues such as depression are very common, especially among the elderly who experience these losses and social isolation. The good news is that it is treatable. The success rate of getting relief from symptoms is high. But it takes more than drugs to properly treat depression. People need to talk it out with a professional. They can be supported in expressing all of the feelings that led them to that dark place. A competent therapist will help the client find ways to deal with emotions and help them take action when they lose control. It is a learning experience. Therapy to treat depression helps most people who seek that help. According to the National Network of Depression Centers, 80% of those seeking treatment showed improvement in symptoms Within four to six weeks of starting treatment. Yes, there are exceptions and sometimes in the most difficult cases multiple treatments are indicated. But most people who get treatment can experience relief and regain the ability to enjoy things in their lives.

What can you do with a frustrated aging parent?

  1. You can respectfully point to any one famous person your parents know who has publicly announced their own struggles with mental health and sought treatment. You can say, if it’s okay for them, it’s okay for you, Mom/Dad/Grandma.
  2. For elders, getting a licensed psychologist to treat depression is indeed a challenge, even if they are willing to go. Medicare (and almost all other major insurers) do not fairly pay experienced mental health providers. Therefore, a large number of qualified physicians will not accept Medicare payments. You can help by searching for a provider, Finding the one can be a long process. To persevere.
  3. Encourage your aging parent to talk about what is happening to them right now. Listen, and don’t judge or give advice, or tell them they’ll get over it. Giving a loved one space to talk about something emotional is one of the best gifts you can give. You don’t need to be skilled at anything other than being respectful and keeping your mouth shut.
  4. offer to accompany them to the first medical visit If they are willing to go and you are available. You will not be in session with them. But for someone who dreads the idea, the presence of a loved one for emotional support and company along the way can help. Telemedicine is less intimidating and may be a better option if your loved one accepts it. However, in-person visits tend to have more depth and can be more effective.

For us at, a team of me, an RN-Attorney, and Dr. Davis, a geriatric psychologist, mental health and elder issues are part of our professional lives. I experience despair and sadness when I learn that an elder is suffering and will not seek the help needed to address it. If this is going on in your family, make every effort to persuade the older person to seek professional help. It can be life changing.

Credit: /

- Advertisement -

Recent Articles

Related Stories