The ability to understand emotions is what we, as humans, are blessed with. However, the understanding can differ with the individual. And it is something that we learn through our life experiences.
But when we talk about the elderly, the situation becomes a little sensitive. Their emotional needs can differ a lot from that of an adult. There are various factors that act as determiners. It can be due to changes in their body, surroundings, or simply natural. What’s more important is how you can deal with that change.
While professional consultation may be helpful, personal communication may work more effectively. And that is what the motive of this blog is going to be. We will cover each aspect of the elderly emotional needs and will put forth some ways to tackle those needs.
Understanding The Needs Of The Elderly
Before moving on to how you can tackle certain needs, it is more important to understand their needs first. It is only when you understand something that you can work around it. The needs of the elderly can be social or psychological. And both of these factors contribute to their emotional health and needs.
One of the things that eat away at the elders is the loneliness and the fear of being left out. It can also cause serious health problems.
You need to understand that older ones require attention, and your intention matters a lot. Pitying them will only make the situation worse. If you really care for them, then be as expressive as you can.
With the passage of time, the ability to think and remember also decreases in an individual. It becomes even more evident in the older ages. And a probable reason for that is the lack of social interaction which keeps a person happy and healthy. Now it may be difficult to be with them all the time, but you can still have little conversations. You can
- Ask about their day
- Share anything interesting or fun that happened on that day
- Ask them to share their experiences
Also, ensure that the conversation remains open-ended. It usually leads to quality time which is helpful not just for the elderly but also contributes to a positive atmosphere in the house.
The mental state and way of thinking also change as people get older. In fact, over a million Americans who are more than 65 years of age suffer from depression. And even though it is more common in young adults, the numbers are still quite significant.
There is even some level of correlation between late depression and Alzheimer’s. Mental stimulation is a good way to relieve them of depression. You can provide them with memory games or ask them to recall positive memories to stimulate their brain.
It may not be very common to witness mood swings in the elderly, but the occurrence is still quite significant. And according to different studies, lack of emotional support is a big reason.
With growing age, the elderly start feeling useless and irritated. And living alone adds up to that frustration. So if we get back to the answer, “What are the emotional needs of the elderly?” There are 3 things that you can keep in mind.
- Safety & Security: You may not be aware of this, but older adults have different fears. They do not stress about financial conditions or robbery more than they do falling.
- Connection: Connecting with others is something that is important for any person. And when someone feels disconnected from others, it leads to poor health. Thus, it is an important emotional need of an older adult.
- Autonomy: One thing about the generation of senior citizens is that they have lived independently throughout their life. And when they grow old and have to rely on others, it turns into a difficult transition.
Why Is Emotional Support For The Elderly Important?
Senior citizens go through so many physical and psychological changes which call for emotional support. We do not imply that all changes are negative, but there are some that are.
We have already shown you glimpses of the need for emotional support. Now, let’s talk about them in more detail.
Old age is something no one can avoid in their life. It also causes many changes in the life of those who are getting old. And often, these changes are involuntary. It starts limiting their ability to think and move.
These changes also start affecting their daily lifestyle and social life. And that ultimately leads to feelings of separation and isolation from others. That is one of the reasons why emotional support becomes important.
Lack Of Control
As people grow older, they start losing control over things. For a generation that knew the importance of self-dependence and incorporated it into their lives, it is very frustrating. That is why it is important to let them do things that they can do. It ensures that they feel free and gain a sense of self-worth.
You might have heard that as people grow old, they become more childish. And it’s not that their mental state turns into that of a child. But, it’s rather that they crave attention like that which makes them behave in certain ways. Another reason for their attention-seeking is that they become less capable of coping with things and develop a low sense of self-worth.
How To Tackle The Emotional Needs Of The Elderly?
Now that you are able to understand the emotional needs of the elderly, let us look at how you can effectively fulfill those needs.
One of the most effective ways to have a conversation with an older adult is by hearing them properly. The feeling of not being seen or heard can take a toll on their mindset. So, you can start by listening actively and engaging in a conversation.
When they talk, just listen and understand what they are saying. Brushing them off would hit their sense of self-worth. Listening carefully will also develop a stronger connection between you two. It will ultimately make them feel more valued.
And what’s important is not the listening, but the fact that they feel they are needed.
Prioritizing Their Safety
Another basic but crucial point is to make the elders feel safe and secure. If you are not able to make them feel safe, they will not also feel valued there. In such cases, it is important to know what is making them feel unsafe and get rid of that element.
You can even make changes to the surroundings or make modifications to the house to make them feel safer. Installation of security systems, emergency call buttons, etc., can help with that.
As we already talked about, loneliness is one factor that leads to the feeling of disconnection. So, helping them in creating social connections can lead them to live a happier life. Another benefit of socializing is the benefit of mental and physical health.
Some common ways of socializing include:
- Going out to the park and meeting people in similar age groups
- Spending more time with members of the family and children in the family
- Visiting a friend or a relative from time to time
Engaging In Helpful Activities
Having hobbies is a great way to kill time and also to get the mind off irrelevant things. This is true for older adults as well. In their case, the activities may even function as a recreational subject. And it will definitely improve their overall health.
So, help them in finding a hobby that they will love and take their mind off of other things. It can be in the form of creating a daily routine, helping out with the less demanding chores, or playing some games. As long as the activity is fruitful, there should be no harm in doing it.
Also Read:- What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia Or Alzheimer’s
Do Not Undermine Their Wishes
It is very often that older adults start feeling that their wishes are not being respected. It is due to their ability to think clearly, which comes with their age. So, this part is more so related to active listening. If you want to respect their wishes, listening to them would be the first step towards it.
Look Out For Signs Of Depression
Also, you need to understand that despite your best efforts, there may come situations where the elderly will act rashly. The underlying reason for those actions is what’s more important. Sometimes, depression hits them, and the reason can be anything.
So, be on the lookout for any signs of depression that there may be. If the elder one is going through any medical condition, then it may cause depression. Some common signs are:
- Low mood and self-esteem
- Excessive sleeping
- Social withdrawal
- Losing interest in hobbies
Self-care becomes difficult when people get older. While it may not be a general scenario, it certainly happens. The reason for that is usually a lower mobility and flexibility, which comes with age. In that case, you can provide assistance to them in their self-care. It will also get you to spend more time with them and engage them in conversation.
Does Interacting With Animals Help?
Animals can also help them provide the companionship they long for. So, if it gets too difficult to make time for the elderly in your home, then get them the company of pets.
You can even find many studies that indicate the positive effects of animals on the mental health of the elderly. One such study found that dog owners had a lower risk of heart disease. It may not be the only cause, but it is certainly beneficial.
Some other benefits of having a pet for the elderly include:
- They get the opportunity to go out and experience the fresh environment with their pets.
- Taking them out is also a sort of exercise for them which is beneficial for their physical and also mental health.
- It also has benefits like reduced stress, more social interaction, and other similar health effects.
You can also find many studies on the internet about the effects.
Getting older may not be an easy journey for everyone with the different challenges and conditions. That is why emotional support is something that can help the elderly live a better and healthier life.
We hope that we were able to help you in providing better care to your elders, even if it’s just a little. If you are still in doubt or seek professional assistance, then you can reach out to Alnicor Consulting for help. And we will ensure that we provide you with the best support we possibly can.