When considering home health care, it’s not hard to focus mainly on a client’s immediate physical needs. After all, temporary problems walking, talking or swallowing can often be more noticeable and easier to address and correct as opposed to larger, perhaps chronic, mental health challenges, when trying to offer them assistance. But the staff at Accredited Home Care also encourages family members and caregivers in the Van Nuys area to make sure attention and consideration are given to the client’s mental health needs as well.
Not only are there established connections between the two, it just makes good sense: someone isn’t going to be physically comfortable in a home health care setting if their mental health needs aren’t taken into account. The reverse is also true!
Focusing on mental and physical health simultaneously is actually a fairly new concept, especially as researchers continue to learn more about the vital role mental health plays in our overall health make-up.
Traditionally, many health care providers have only focused on improving or stabilizing physical health, and any deviation from that, such as lack of motivation or appetite due to depression, was seen as mysterious or abnormal. Providers, including physicians and sometimes even nurses, didn’t always have the consistent training to recognize and work with patients in both areas.
In recent years, however, more attention has been given toward mental health’s role in overall health, although there’s still a long way to go.
Time to celebrate
This month is an ideal time to recognize these ongoing efforts. The World Health Organization has declared Oct. 10 to be World Mental Health Day, an opportunity for stakeholders in the global mental health community at every level to discuss challenges, opportunities and progress.
The day is also a chance to raise awareness that more people are taking the topic seriously, but that more attention and resources are still needed for children, teens, families and seniors. The mental trauma of war, from soldiers to inhabitants of countries where wars are taking place, may also impact people’s circumstances.
October is also National Depression Awareness and Education Month, which is an additional opportunity to discuss depression, one of the more common forms of mental illness that can also influence one’s physical health and affect one’s relationships.
Spotting depression and other changes
Though these sorts of global celebrations are positive and excellent ways to draw attention to larger issues, create strategic partnerships, and encourage fund-raising, valuable things are also taking place at local levels.
In the Van Nuys area and other Southern California locations, Accredited Home Care has been working closely with clients and caregivers for more 20 years.
While the staff has had training and experience working with people with mental health issues, sometimes these situations may be new to clients and their caregivers.
For example, health incidents such as a stroke or heart attack, may destabilize someone’s control on their life and surroundings. Minor mental health issues may increase as someone ages, and some forms of dementia could also begin to affect people. Even trauma from earlier in life could begin to emerge years or decades later as circumstances change.
While everyone’s symptoms may vary slightly, there are often some similar signs to be aware of if someone is beginning to exhibit mental health changes. Taken individually, they may be fine, but taken together can motivate a caregiver to consult with a health provider, or at least a home health specialist who can continue to observe.
- Weight changes. Some people battling chronic anxiety or depression may lose interest in food or regular mealtimes, so their weight can dramatically begin to decrease. In other cases, new stresses can lead to interest in eating larger portions or less healthy food, and weight can increase. Depression can also lead to lack of interest in exercise or even any activity at all, which may also affect weight gain or loss.
- Feelings of unhappiness. Irritability and negative moods are common, but these can also be indicators of mental health problems. It may take a trained professional to observe and detect if someone “feeling grumpy” is part of their personality or current circumstances, or perhaps an indicator of something more serious, like fear or anger due to dementia.
- Unusual sleep patterns. Plenty of things can alter sleep schedules, from alcohol to caffeine to certain foods. But major disruptions, such as not sleeping for days, short naps, or unusual hours, can cause mental and physical problems. Chronic fatigue can contribute to other problems.
- Discussions of death. This is also something that depends on context. While there’s nothing wrong with making final arrangements or occasionally speculating about what may come next, an obsessive focus could be a warning sign for suicide.
- Strong emotions and rapid mood changes. It could be concerning when a normally stoic individual begins to display different emotions quickly like sadness or even happiness. It doesn’t have to be only tears either – people unfamiliar with displaying emotion may channel these new feelings into other forms, such as anger.
With more than 2,000 clients receiving assistance from 2,500 caregivers and licensed clinicians, the Accredited Home Care staff is always happy to discuss options with family members or caregivers.