Therapy in Old Age

Therapy in old ageYes there can be Therapy in old age…

“Many older adults who had never sought psychological help before are trying therapy to alleviate some of the problems they face late in life ” states an article in the New York Times dated April 23, 2013. To which I say “Bravo!”

Getting old is not for sissies,” as Bette Davis once said. There are the physical manifestations: aches and pains, which can make one grumpy, and the limitations which come from diminishing strength and balance, which can be frustrating. There is also the reality that your friends are facing the same or more serious health issues. You may have lost some friends, you have certainly lost family members. Things just aren’t the same. It’s easy to start isolating: getting around is more difficult, fewer people to see, not as many exciting possibilities to compete with the comfort of staying home. Driving may present difficulties, especially at night. As ones world gets smaller and smaller, there are fewer opportunities for joy, or for connection. In today’s world, its unusual to find extended family living in close proximity. The norm is more likely to be children and grandchildren living far away.

Another hurdle that today’s older population faces is the tremendous explosion in technology. They did not grow up with computers. Indeed, many elders remain confused and intimidated by the things, which may contribute to their feelings of being left behind and out of touch. They may be overwhelmed at the thought if trying to learn something that appears so terribly complicated, particularly if they think they might Appear stupid in the eyes of their children or grandchildren as they attempt to learn .

Many older people are just naturally able to adjust and maintain a healthy attitude in spite of all this. These are the ones who are eager to embrace something new, like a new hobby or a class at the local community college. They may also have close ties to a church or synagogue, and take advantage of the gatherings there. It’s been clearly documented that regular exercise improves mood and brain function,  and exercise classes for the elderly are opening up everywhere.

Others are more likely to get “stuck.”  Everything seems overwhelmingly difficult, which is why the rates of depression are soaring in this population. While the elderly may get regular checkups, their GP may not think to ask about their mental health. An older person may have very strong views about seeing a psychiatrist. After all, they’re certainly not “crazy.” Which is too bad, because medication can be helpful, but it needs to be carefully tailored and monitored. Over-medication could lead to confusion and problems with motility.

Which is why therapy is such a good possibility. However, finding the right therapist can be tricky for anyone, but especially so for the more mature. Grandma or grandpa are generally not going to trust a 20 something who just finished graduate school. This may not be fair, and it may be a mistake, but its a reality. If they live in Los Angeles they’re in luck: the typical MFT in LA is a woman in her fifties. Old enough to know something.

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