One of the most important things you can do to ensure your aging loved one stays healthy and happy is to address their emotional needs. In many ways, physical and emotional health are directly related, so it’s especially important to be aware of both types of health as you care for your loved one. Here are some ways to help with seniors’ emotional needs.
Make Them Feel Safer
Caregivers should make golden-years adults feel safer by ensuring that they are always alert and aware of their surroundings. Many aging loved one’s struggle with staying focused when they feel nervous or threatened in any way. For example, many find it difficult to fall asleep if they know someone is lurking around them in a dark room. It’s important to keep doors locked so that aging loved ones don’t have to worry about whether someone will barge into their room at night, and it’s also important for caregivers to check on them regularly so that they know someone is there for them. This takes some initial training for both parties, but once it’s established, it becomes a habit that brings peace of mind for both parties involved.
Look for Signs of Depression
Noticing warning signs of depression in aging loved ones is very important. Depression affects aging adults just as it does younger adults and teenagers. Some signs to look for are difficulty concentrating, a change in sleeping patterns, or simply increased anxiety. If you suspect that your loved one might be depressed, consider talking to them about their day-to-day life and how they feel about themselves or their circumstances. You may need to ask if they feel sad or hopeless sometimes; it’s okay to bring up these subjects because many hide their emotions as they don’t want people worrying about them.
Focus on Quality Time
It’s important to focus on spending quality time with your loved ones. According to WebMD, when aging loved ones aren’t receiving their emotional needs, they have increased risks of depression, anxiety, and apathy—and those conditions can be deadly. Instead of treating a loved one as an object or possession, it’s better to focus on showing them love and understanding by sitting down with them at mealtime and having heart-to-heart conversations. Spending quality time with your loved ones is just as important as focusing on their physical well-being because it helps keep their mental health in check as well.
Create a Sense of Purpose
As we age, it can be easy to feel like our role in life is coming to an end. With less energy and vitality, and even less interest in activities that used to matter so much, it’s hard not to wonder what happens next. But while we may no longer work outside of our homes or be surrounded by people who are a lot younger than us, we can still define ourselves as useful individuals with valuable insight and experiences that can make a difference. You might not see as many friends as you used to (and they might not come around so often), but the chances are good that there are people you interact with every day who could benefit from your experience, expertise, and knowledge.
You know your loved one better than anyone else, and that includes knowing their likes and dislikes. So, if they aren’t feeling up to guests dropping by, you should respect their wishes. If they want to socialize, go with them and support them in doing so; if they’d rather stay home and watch TV or read a book all day, respect that too. Just as you’re there for everything physical (helping with walking or dressing), you can be there for everything emotional as well. Respect is key here!