Guest Post by Jennifer McGregor
The elderly population, classified as anyone at or above the age of 65, is rapidly growing, and with that comes a mounting problem with the dual diagnosis of mental illness and addiction. Several factors contribute to the co-occurring disorder, including stressful life changes like losing a loved one, physical issues with the body, or increased prescription drug use. If you know a senior battling addiction and mental health disorders, here are some tips for helping them:
Jump Into Action Early
Wading through all the stages of life can be a lot to burden. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are side effects of trying times. One way to face problems head on is to recognize them and catch them before they grow into an overwhelming load. Maintaining social circles and staying connected with peers can prevent depression. Another prevention method of mental health issues is having easily accessible and adaptable primary care. Check in your area to see if any organizations do home visits, provide community-based care, and offer support groups. Getting regular checkups and screen testing can be a contributor to early detection of a mental illness. It’s easy for younger family members to shrug off signs of illness or make excuses for the behavior, but doctors who are paid to detect those warning signs can help you get a head start on the problem.
If the Need for Treatment is Inevitable
If substance abuse and mental illness is blatantly obvious, it might be time to confront your loved one about getting help. It will help to meet them on their own terms. That means meeting them on their home turf, or a place that is comfortable for them. It is common for the victim to be defiant to the recommendation of treatment. Use this advice to help start this challenging discussion:
- Absorb the resistance with patience and understanding: Imagine what you would feel like if you were in their shoes. When they lose their temper or lash out against you, remember it stems from fear and anxiety. Instead of pressing the topic all at once, aim the conversation toward your concerns and less pressing matters.
- Be conscientious of your timing: Choose a moment when both of you are calm and undistracted. You both will be more willing to listen to each other’s perspective.
- Stay persistent: If they are unresponsive the first go round, or the conversation heads south from the start, try bringing it up again at a different time. With emotionally-charged conversation, sometimes it’s easier to discuss, take a break, and come back with a fresh attitude.
- Keep track of their medication: With the added stress of facing this new problem, they shouldn’t neglect their current issues.
- Paperwork: Gather all the necessary information that the treatment facility and therapists will need. In some cases, acquiring a medical power of attorney may be necessary in order to make the final decisions on how to handle their care
The most important thing to remember is that temporary conflict is much easier to manage in the short term than treating an intense case of mental illness and addiction in the long run. Don’t be afraid of confrontation. If it’s out of love for someone you deeply care about, then you can endure it. It’s worth it for them to attempt to lead a normal life.
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