Senior health care is a comprehensive issue that needs to be addressed on several fronts: social, mental, psychological, physical and economic. There is an immediate need for public awareness about mental health problems of older adults. With over 23% of the population predicted to be senior citizens by 2035, India will face several issues with mental health care provisions for the elderly, most of them stemming from a lack of infrastructure, government programs and public awareness. Rapid urbanization and digitalization has caused a number of problems for the elderly. For those set in their ways, the shift to a more digital lifestyle can be extremely frustrating and isolating. The demand for community care and home-based care for elderly Indians has become a focal point of elderly mental health care services, since the current systems in place are not well equipped to provide consistent qualitative services. Home-based care should ideally be provided through familial and community based health care initiatives that focus on providing elders with the individualized services they might need. There is also an increased need for community health workers in India, who are trained to identify problems and provide help to elders with mental illness.
Why are some of the benefits of home care for the elderly?
- Provides them with familiar surroundings and socialization options
The older you get, the more the concept of home can change. Rather than being about a physical place, home can be the sentiments and emotions carried by a person. For the elderly, being able to interact with familiar locations and objects can have a profoundly positive effect on their mental health. If they live in a place that is accessible to their friends and family, it helps them socialize whenever they want.
- It helps them retain a level of independence
At a senior care facility or hospital or hospice, your loved one may not be able to maintain any freedom. To the current generations of elderly Indians, being independent is quite important. A growing number of elders prefer to live with their spouses or by themselves, and age at home, in a place they can call their own. Staying at home therefore can have a positive effect on their happiness levels.
- Affordable alternative to nursing homes or assisted living facilities
A large number of people think that choosing a nursing home over home care will save money long-term, however this isn’t true. Here are some things you could do to make sure that home care is affordable for your loved one:
- Hire an in-home caregiver privately, through recommendations, rather than from an agency
- Use digital technology to monitor your loved one, and to be there for them when they need it
- Make low-cost modifications around the house to make the house more livable and more accident-proof
- Home care improves the overall quality of life and positively affects mental health
Being forced to leave home when their health declines can significantly increase emotional and mental stress for the elderly. Having private home care means that they can stay in a place that makes them feel happy, rather than somewhere that makes them feel like a burden.
- Personalized home care plans make sure that elders are up to date with their care
In the more formal setting of a nursing home or assisted living facility, your loved one will most likely receive generic care, food, housing and clothing that can feel very restrictive. Through a personalized home care plan, they are free to adjust their care in the way that best suits their individual needs. It also allows their family, friends and caregivers to participate in their daily lives, while making sure they get the level of care they require.
- Elders can have pets if they choose to
While this might not be the case for everyone, a large number of elderly people will choose to have a pet companion, to make sure they aren’t lonely. If relegated to a home or facility, they will not be able to have their pets with them. Having their pet means that they are likely to experience less stress, less loneliness, a higher sense of purpose, and increased calming effects on those with dementia, anxiety and heart problems.
- Caregivers can help with daily activities, respond quickly to emergencies, and are a call away
Caregiving can be helpful, but tedious. You may not be able to handle everything yourself, so the next best thing to do is to hire a professional caregiver. A caregiver could perform many tasks, including: feeding, bathing, dressing, preparing meals, housekeeping, keeping company, providing transportation, giving medical reminders, 24/7 live in care, and many more!
What can you do at home to improve the mental health of a loved elder?
- Make sure they are provided for, and that you know how to contact a doctor or professional, when they need it.
- Encourage them to exercise, go on walks, or do any physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Make the effort to educate yourself in regards to their afflictions. If they are diagnosed with a mental health illness, you should study up on it, so that you know what they are dealing with.
- Discuss their diagnosis and treatment options with them, and help them identify their problems as soon as possible.
- Allow them the freedom to socialize the way they want to, and schedule times that the entire family can get together.
- Soothe them when they are absent-minded or unfocused, this is common the older you get. Instead of blaming them for being forgetful, gently remind them where things are, and help them find what they need quickly.
- Make sure that the care they receive is client centered, goal oriented and continuous.
- Talk to the caregiver and give them accurate information about your loved one. The more information you can share, the more the caregiver can tailor a plan for your loved one.