It’s been a rough few years. For everyone. From closures and forced isolation in 2020, to navigating the “new normal” of this post-pandemic era, there is no doubt the ongoing volatility and anxiety have taken a toll on our collective mental health.
As more Americans take on family caregiving, the need for mental support is rising too.
There has been heightened awareness surrounding the mental health of teens and young children, and thank goodness for that. We need to rally around our kids to both help them heal and set them up for a successful future. However, we cannot forget that older adults also need additional support and resources, especially those who are also family caregivers.
The number of family caregivers grew during the pandemic, and now many of those individuals are tired, stressed, burned out and in need of help. In fact, the number of Americans providing unpaid care has increased over the last five years, and nearly 1 in 5 is now providing unpaid care to an adult with health or functional needs. If you haven’t seen that need firsthand with your own loved ones, friends or neighbors, the data doesn’t lie.
Here are some stats that really stand out:
- The CDC estimates 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern.
- Nearly 1 in 5 older adults say their mental health has gotten worse since the pandemic began in March 2020, and an equal percentage say their sleep has suffered in that time too.
- Women, people in their 50s and early 60s, and older adults who have a college degree or higher were more likely than others to report worse mental health than before the pandemic, according to the new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
- Isolation was already an issue before COVID-19 with about one-quarter of Americans over age 65 feeling socially isolated, and more than 40% of people over age 60 feeling lonely. The lockdowns brought on by the pandemic only worsened the issue.
As a nonprofit serving older adults in the Valley, FSL (Foundation for Senior Living) provides support services to family caregivers and offers the following tips to help caregivers stay mentally and physically healthy:
- Do not skip meals. Make time to eat three square meals a day.
- Create a healthy sleep schedule.
- Incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day.
- Include breaks into your caregiving schedule.
- Recognize when you’re having difficulty managing stress.
- Ask for help or look for respite care through community organizations.
- Take time off for yourself – even a little bit of time off for yourself can often result in a feeling of guilt, as if you are neglecting your loved one or not doing enough to help. But, it’s important to recharge and take a break too.
If you are caring for a loved one and need help, visit www.fsl.org for more tips and resources.