MENTAL health challenges experienced by older people living in their own homes often goes unnoticed and can be put down to 'just growing older', but in reality mental illness in not a normal part of aging.
That's according to Dr. Finbar Markey, a local gerontologist offering free training on this and other age related issues over the coming months. At the most recent training event, 12 community group volunteers and regular members of the community learned about a number of different types of dementia, age related depression and anxiety, and the best way to respond to the signs and symptoms. The training was sponsored by Homecare Medical Supplies based at the back of Williamson's Mall on Francis Street.
Dr Markey said: 'With recent cutbacks to primary healthcare services, especially public health nursing and home support services, there is a real danger that the early signs of mental ill health are not being recognised. As such, with the help of Homecare Medical Supplies we have been able to fill that gap to a small degree.
'Most people associate ageing with declines in mental ability, but this is not the usual trajectory of growing older and most don't experience mental health challenges. For 80 percent of those who do experience the most common forms of mental ill health such as depression and anxiety, when they seek help they can return to a normal life after treatment, and that's the central message of the training, don't just write off older people if they are ill, they have as much potential as anyone else to recover and regain significant quality of life'.
Dr. Markey highlights how fear is one of the main reasons why older people do not seek help when they notice their own mental health declining. He said: 'Often our senior citizens fear that they will be institutionalised or stigmatised if they tell anyone about the fact they do not feel themselves and yet early intervention is so important. Even in cases of early onset dementia, if health care professionals are informed they can determine what form of dementia it is, and if it's vascular in nature, it may respond well to treatment'.
Dr. Markey will be delivering classes on other age-related issues over the coming months such as the prevention and treatment of leg ulcers. For further details of training sessions, call 087 7050903.