Counseling for 65+ Individuals

at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

Counseling for 65+ Individuals
In Grand Rapids, MI and West Michigan At Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, MI

Growing older is a journey filled with memories, achievements, and lessons learned. But reaching the age of 65 and beyond can also bring its own set of challenges. As we get older, we face various changes in our daily lives: our health might decline, friends and family might move or pass away, and feelings of loneliness can creep in.

Did you know that according to the World Health Organization, around 20% of those aged 60 and over suffer from some type of mental health diagnosis such as depression or anxiety?

One reason may be that large changes may be especially hard to deal with the older you become. But you need to know that it’s okay to seek help.

Counseling personalized just for seniors is a way to address these feelings and find ways to cope. Talking about worries, memories, and future plans with someone who understands can make a big difference. Let’s find out a bit more about how counseling can make a difference for the elders.

Understanding the Unique Challenges of Aging

Even though aging is a natural part of life, this process brings a mix of complexities that may negatively affect an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. Experiencing feelings of loneliness, dealing with memory inconsistencies, or suddenly having a lot of free time can lead to complex and difficult emotions, as well as dark existential thoughts.

It is vital to recognize that personal well-being isn’t bound by age. Contrary to a misconception that therapeutic interventions are mainly beneficial for the younger demographic, therapy provides invaluable benefits at any age. The same applies to people over the age of 65.

According to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), approximately 1 in every 4 senior citizens grapples with mental health challenges. Among these concerns, depression and dementia prominently stand out, affecting an estimated 5% to 7% of older adults globally. Anxiety, though slightly less prevalent, still affects a significant 3.8% of the elderly, as reported by the same report.

Unfortunately, despite these alarming statistics, a significant majority of seniors suffering from mental health issues are left untreated. In fact, two-thirds of this vulnerable population does not receive the necessary therapeutic interventions. Considering this, it’s crucial to address and prioritize the mental well-being of our aging population.

Common Mental Health Challenges in the Elderly Population

Depression: A Growing Concern Among Senior Citizens

Depression isn’t just a concern for younger people. Studies show that depression is one of the main health problems faced by the elderly worldwide (Zenebe et al., 2021). The reason is that as we get older, the risk of feeling low or sad increases. For instance, a study from Portugal found that as people age, their overall happiness and well-being can drop, with feelings of depression and worry playing a big role in that decline (Ribeiro et al., 2020).

Rising Suicidal Tendencies in the Elderly

Suicide is also becoming alarmingly more frequent among the elderly. A recent report from the CDC reveals that between 1999 and 2010, suicide rates for those aged 35 to 64 rose by 28.4%.

Increased Occurrence of Delirium Post Age 65

Delirium, characterized by abrupt episodes of confusion, is more prevalent in those aged 65 and beyond. Most times, delirium appears in hospitals, especially after surgeries or in intensive care units. Shockingly, up to 87% of patients aged 65 and above can experience it, with those with dementia at an even greater risk (Fong et al., 2018). In fact, 2 out of every 3 delirium cases happen to seniors with dementia.

Why Seniors Might Need Counseling

Ever wonder how it feels to step into the golden years? Growing old doesn’t just mean celebrating milestones and cherishing memories. Often, it also brings challenges that may overshadow the joys of aging.

Imagine you were once lively, moving around, and suddenly you find it hard to even walk to the mailbox. The fact that your close friends, the ones you’ve shared countless memories with, begin passing away, can make it even more difficult to adapt to post-retirement changes.

Another terrible fact is that some seniors face not just neglect but even abuse. Believe it or not, 1 in 6 elders experience some form of mistreatment. Of course, this leaves emotional and physical scars and lowers the quality of life.

Here are specific signs that an elder might need counseling:

  • Drastic changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Symptoms of extreme worry or fear
  • Becoming socially withdrawn or showing disinterest in usual activities
  • Noticeable decline in personal care or hygiene
  • Verbalizing feelings of despair or hopelessness
  • Confusion or unexplained mood swings
  • Increasingly talking about death or dying
  • Avoiding social activities they once enjoyed
  • Struggling to cope with recent losses or changes
  • Showing signs of increased irritability or anger

Facing these challenges alone can feel daunting. But with counseling, seniors can find the tools and support they need to face these obstacles. Studies show that therapy has a significant positive effect on older adults in dealing with mental health concerns (Saunders et al., 2021).  Professional therapists can help them manage stress, and develop effective coping mechanisms. and assist in processing grief, loss, or the trauma of abuse. With the right support and guidance, seniors can navigate these challenges, finding joy and purpose once again.

Empirical Evidence on Counseling for Seniors

The effectiveness of counseling for people aged 65+ is empirically proven by various studies. Here are some evidence-based techniques that have shown remarkable positive results:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT assists individuals by reshaping negative thought patterns and harmful behaviors that weigh them down. A 2021 study shows that CBT interventions for depression and anxiety were significantly effective for older adults (Chan et al., 2019).
  • Mindfulness-Based Interventions – Mindfulness-based approach is especially efficient in promoting mental well-being in older adults. A review by Geiger et al. (2016) highlighted the potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions in improving the physical and emotional well-being of the elderly. Furthermore, a specific adaptation of mindfulness techniques for seniors, known as the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Approach for Seniors (MBCAS), effectively enhanced the adaptability and positive coping mechanisms of elder individuals (Zellner Keller et al., 2014).
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – ACT is an innovative therapeutic approach, particularly relevant for this age group. This type of therapy focuses on accepting things out of one’s personal control and committing to actions that enrich their life based on what one values. Petkus et al. (2013) emphasized the potential of ACT for older adults to treat anxiety and depression
  • Psychodynamic Therapy – This therapy is rooted in the idea that unconscious memories and emotions can influence behavior. It focuses on understanding past experiences to understand current behaviors. A longitudinal study highlighted that older adults who underwent psychodynamic therapy showed significant improvements from psychodynamic treatment (Choudhury et al., 2020).

Benefits of Counseling for 65+

Therapy can provide a number of benefits that can make the mental health and well-being of your older loved ones truly golden.

Here’s how counseling can make a difference:

  • Positive lifestyle changes and coping skills – Senior counseling assists in recognizing and implementing beneficial lifestyle alterations. This process isn’t about dictation but exploration. This empowers seniors to make choices that lead to a happier life.
  • Managing grief and loss – As we age, the reality of loss becomes more prevalent. Therapy provides a judgment-free space to allow seniors to mourn and fully experience and process their grief.
  • Adjusting to life changes – Big transitions, such as retirement or relocating to a senior living community, can be overwhelming. However, therapy offers understanding and strategies to navigate these shifts gracefully.
  • Combating loneliness – The therapist-client bond, while professional, can still be a deeply meaningful connection. Encounters with a therapist help older adults resolve feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Accepting a health diagnosis – When seniors find out they have a health problem, it can be difficult to accept. Therapy can help them understand and deal with their health issues in order to live a purposeful life despite health challenges.
  • Processing traumas from the past or present – Many senior citizens have had to face a horrible traumatic event in their past that may be coming back to haunt them in the present. Now only that, but many elders have had to deal with a younger family member or friend dying well before their time. This can cause PTSD-like symptoms that may be best addressed by EMDR Therapy or Internal Family Systems therapy.

As you can see, today, counseling has become an effective and accessible option to help senior citizens enhance their well-being and live happier lives. At Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, our dedicated team understands the unique challenges of the golden years. Using a holistic approach, our licensed counselors are here to guide seniors toward a balanced and fulfilling life. Contact us today and discover the difference compassionate counseling can make.

Therapists For Counseling for 65+ Individuals

Kaiti VanWormer, Counseling Intern

Culturally Sensitive and Creative Person-Centered Counseling

Katerina Guerrero

Empowering Your Journey: Culturally Inclusive, Integrative Therapy for Healing and Growth

Ben Zimmerman

Non-judgmental Therapy Space Focused on Personal Development and Empowerment

Michael Egan

Counseling that Empowers and Strengthens You

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