Like all stages of life, older age brings its own challenges. Mental health problems in later life are often a normal consequence of growing older.
Some groups of people are more at risk from coronavirus, including older people. It can infect anyone of any age but people aged 60 and over are more likely to have more severe symptoms. People over 70 are particularly vulnerable.
How it can affect your mental health
If you are older, different things can affect your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.
Staying at home
You may have to stay at home as much as possible and feel cut off from the outside world.
This could be because you need to:
- distance yourself from others
- restrict your movements
Increased isolation and loneliness
You may feel that you are no longer the hub of your family. You may miss seeing and having the same amount of physical contact with people.
Lack of daily tasks
Disruption to your daily routines may make you feel:
Knowing you’re at risk
Constant news of coronavirus could make you more anxious than normal. You could be afraid of the unknown, feel hopeless or worry that the worst will happen.
How you can mind your mental health
Minding your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak is very important.
Adjusting to new circumstances can take time. Be patient and find what works for you.
Organise your day and write down daily “to-do” lists and activities. Do this every day for the day ahead. Ask a friend or family member to help work through what’s on your mind and plan ahead.
Some other things you can do
- Develop a regular structure to your day. Routines can reassure you – they can make the world feel more predictable and safer.
- Stay active in and around your home. Exercise within the current guidelines. Exercise is a mood enhancer.
- Eat and drink healthily – lots of fruit, vegetables and water – to help boost your immune system and energy levels.
- Keep a good sleep routine each night – this will help you feel better the following day.
- Contact any groups that you are involved with and see what new ways they are organising things.
- Develop new interests. Creative activities or reading are particularly beneficial.
- There are many events available live online, including concerts and religious services.
- Keep contacts details close by – friends, family and services.
Mental health services
If you use mental health services, continue to connect with your team. They might provide services in different ways during this time. But it is important that you continue your treatments and talk with them if you need extra support.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may be feeling particularly low or you have lots on your mind. If so, call a friend, family member or support organisation.
Connect with people in many different ways. You can do this while following all the advice on distancing or self-isolating at the same time. You don’t have to appear to be strong or to try to struggle through things by yourself.
If you are supporting an older person
Showing care, kindness and compassion is very important.
Make sure they have activities that they can engage in at home. For example, music, books, magazines, knitting. You can also do other things, such as looking through photo albums together.
Helping an older person in small, practical ways will make a big difference, for example:
- Offer practical help with day-to-day tasks – shopping, picking up prescriptions or medicines.
- Help them plan ahead – discuss the next few days and listen out for concerns they have, or things they may need help with.
- Make contact daily by phone – have a chat and listen to what they say
- Share facts and give clear information that is easy to understand.
- Look out for changes in mood or behaviour – this might mean they are struggling and need extra support.
- Be aware of any cognitive difficulties – they could become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated or withdrawn.
- Provide emotional support through any other informal networks and health professionals.
They may not be comfortable using technology. If they aren’t, show them how to use other ways to stay in touch with others. For example, messaging apps or video calls.
They can also access any local community events being streamed online.