How to Look After Your Mental Health in Later Life

Good mental health is more than the absence of a mental health problem. This Mental Health Awareness Week 8-14 May 2017 raises the question why too few of us are thriving with good mental health.

What is mental health?

 According to the Mental Health Foundation, being mentally healthy doesn’t just mean that you don’t have a mental health problem.

If you’re in good mental health, you can:

  • make the most of your potential
  • cope with everyday life
  • play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends.

Some people call mental health ‘emotional health’ or ‘well-being’ and it’s just as important as good physical health.

We all have times when we feel down or stressed or frightened. Most of the time those feelings pass. But sometimes they develop into a more serious problem and that could happen to any one of us.

Your mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances and stages in your life change. As we get older we may face new challenges and circumstances that can create stress and anxiety.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 5 in five older people living in the community and 2 in 5 people living in care homes experience depression or poor mental health.

Research shows that there are five key issues that can have an impact on the mental well being of older people:

  • Discrimination (Age)
  • Lack of participation in meaningful activities
  • Changes in relationships
  • Poor physical health
  • Poverty

Here are 10 useful tips from the Mental Health Foundation to protect our mental health as we get older:

    1.Be prepared for changes in your life as you get older

    Are ready to retire?

There is no longer a compulsory retirement age, with the default age of 65 having been phased out. It is important to note that retirement age is different from state pension age, which can range between 61 and 68 depending on gender and date of birth.

The employee decides the age of retirement, because not everyone feels ready to retire at the same time. If you want, or need, to keep working, discuss this with your employer. Or, you may see this as an opportunity to work part time, change to flexible working hours, or find a new job.

 Further to the above advice from the Mental Health Foundation. At Home Instead we match our CAREGivers to clients and many of our clients would like to be cared for by someone closer to their own age.  Older CAREGivers also have the life skills and experience to understand the issues faced by those in need of care. We believe you are never too old to care!

     2.Talk about problems and concerns

Managing problems, difficulties and worries becomes easier if we talk about our concerns. It’s a good way to rationalise our thoughts and make sense of a situation or of how we feel. It can make us feel supported and not alone. Talk to family and friends about worries and concerns.

    3.Ask for help

Support from friends and family is invaluable. However, they may lack the specialist knowledge you need despite their best intentions. Whether you need help fixing a leaky gutter or with managing limited finances, organisations such as Age Uk, Citizens Advice and your local council can all help.

 Asking for emotional help can be harder, but the Samaritans, Cruse Bereavement Care and your GP may be able to help.

   4.Think ahead and have a plan

To ease the worry, have a plan to put you back in charge and improve well being. As we get older we can worry about our retirement plans, financial planning, the health and well being of ourselves and others, so it may help to get organised and start planning early

  5 Care for Others

As we get older, we may find ourselves looking after grandchildren, elderly parents, partners, friends, or neighbours. Caring for others can keep relationships strong and people close. Helping others makes us feel needed and valued, as well as boosting our self-esteem. These things are good for our mental well being.

  6. Keep in touch with friends

Friends can keep you on track when life is difficult. They can offer a different view on a problem as well as practical help, or can be a sounding board for your thoughts.

  7.Be active and sleep well

 Pilates, gardening, dog walking, dancing, or being part of a walking group are all good ways to get some exercise. Being active doesn’t have to cost much money. Many councils offer activities at lower rates for older people.

The Mental Health Foundation booklet ‘How to look after your mental health using exercise’ suggests ways that you can get active and stay active.

Getting a good night’s sleep allows your body and mind to rest, repair and re-energise.

Keeping your mind active is important, too. There are many ways of doing this, including tackling crosswords, playing chess, play an instrument, take up a new hobby or learn a new skill.  

  8.Eat and drink sensibly

The human body and mind needs a mix of nutrients to work properly and eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day is recommended. Keeping your body hydrated is important and you may want to consider limiting your intake of sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol as, in excess, they can have a negative effect on your well being.

  9.Do things that you enjoy

Doing things that we enjoy makes us feel good about ourselves and about life; plus, it can keep our mind and body active. Interests, hobbies, and pastimes can provide a chance to socialise, or to find time for ourselves.

 10.Relax and have a break

A break needn’t be long: just time for what you enjoy, relax and for letting your mind recharge. Look at how you spend your time. Can you find half an hour each day to relax and unwind?

Reference: Mental Health Foundation www.mentalhealth,org.uk

To find out more about becoming a Home Instead CAREGiver contact the Harrogate team on 01423 774490, Ripon 01765 530400, Thirsk 01845 440510 or email: [email protected]