How to Get Your Senior Loved Ones to Consider Talk Therapy
Dr. Eboni Green
Aging is a normal process of life. While aging occurs gradually and without noticeable life changes, being diagnosed with chronic disease can impact one’s physical health and mental well-being of elders.
In fact, according to the CDC 86% of individuals over the age of 65 have at least one chronic medical condition.
Chronic disease can negatively impact the ability to function independently resulting in increased risks for developing depression and anxiety.
However, some seniors belong to the silent generation where children were expected to be seen and not heard, as such any mention of working with a therapist may be highly disagreeable because the expectation is to keep problems private. In general, advice from a doctor should be taken seriously as should the advice of a therapist or psychologist.\
However, it is important to note that therapy is not the same as psychiatry. For example, therapists primarily focus on treating medical conditions using verbal communication or talk therapy.
Whereas psychotherapy involves medical doctors who may prescribe medications and other treatments for mental illness and mental health disorders.
What is the Value of Talk Therapy?
The importance of talk therapy and how it can positively impact one’s well-being is apparent. In fact, therapy is more normalized and valued than in the past.
The problem is most people don't recognize they are experiencing stressors, like depression, anxiety, or social isolation that can be addressed using therapy talk. As a family caregiver, you might find yourself advocating for a loved one in your family to consider talk therapy.
The following seven tips may be useful should you find a senior loved one who needs convincing to try talk therapy.
7 Tips to Convince Your Loved One to Access Talk Therapy
1. Normalize Talk Therapy
Some seniors may be reluctant to seek out therapy because it simply wasn’t done in the past. As such, caregivers may need to focus efforts on normalizing talk therapy.
How exactly would you do that? Well, one effective way of normalizing therapy is sharing how common it is including success rates and how it can enhance your loved one’s overall wellness.
Once individuals realize how many people around them are benefiting from talk therapy and getting the required treatment from mental health professionals, they may recognize how it can help them. Therapy is not only a treatment for depression, anxiety, and social isolation; partners who face relationship issues with each other also get help via couples therapy.
Avoiding mental health issues and ignoring the symptoms won't make the problem go away. There is no shame in seeking out therapy. Just as medications are prescribed to treat physical health diseases, therapy is needed to address mental health conditions.
2. Broach the Topic of Therapy Carefully
Family members should broach the topic of talk therapy in a loving and caring way. Sharing real examples of how individuals who experienced depression or anxiety during the recent pandemic and worked through their feelings can be useful.
Another way to normalize therapy is by talking to your loved ones about different types of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy.
Explain to them how therapists use different approaches for various mental health concerns, such as mood disorders, substance use, anxiety disorders, and more.
3. Highlight the Benefits of Talk Therapy
You may have heard the famous phrase, "eyes on the prize." Try helping your loved one keep an eye on the prize, i.e., the healing they'll experience during and after talk therapy.
Although there are plenty of advantages to talk therapy, you might focus on how your loved one would benefit.
For example, if they are experiencing age-related loneliness, talk about how talk therapy can help them cope with isolation. In fact, talk therapy can help them develop an optimistic attitude towards difficult changes in their lives. Your loved one’s overall mindset and attitude might be improved.
4. Be Patient
You may already know this, but here's a kind reminder: patience is extremely important.
You can be the best family caregiver, but if you are not patient with your loved ones, you will burn out. As you work to convince your loved one to access therapy, you must prepare yourself for setbacks.
In fact, you may face many no’s before convincing your loved one to access talk therapy. You might think of suggesting talk therapy as planting seeds. The idea might be rejected at first, only to grow on your loved one over time.
5. Don't Give Up
Seniors can face health issues that are not a normal part of aging. In fact, some serious physical conditions, such as the inability to walk, can impact their mental well-being.
Having to go through major life issues can increase irritability. So, you should be prepared for the long haul when working to convince your loved one to consider therapy.
Remember your loved one is not likely to be easily convinced of trying talk therapy right away. They are likely to refuse several times before they say yes.
Therefore, stay hopeful that one day they will see the benefits of therapy.
6. Clarify Any Misconceptions
While convincing your senior loved one to consider talk therapy, you may need to address several misconceptions. Remember that perceptions about therapy may be different from your loved one.
You will want to explain what therapy really is including, the process, environment, and any additional details you can provide. Consider sharing the benefits of having the opportunity to discuss everything that's bothering them without the fear of being judged.
Therapists are trained individuals who know how to provide professional help by listening to their patients, creating a plan, and working through the problems that their patients are experiencing.
Be sure to clarify that talk therapy is not a short-term process. Just like any other process of healing, therapy also requires effort, time, cooperation, and hard work. It will only make a difference in their lives when they show their willingness to access treatment.
7. Make Therapy Convenient
Try to provide as much convenience as possible for therapy. If they don’t want to go to an in-person visit, inform them that online therapy is a viable option.
You can also help your loved one find the right therapist. If your loved one does not know where to start, you may need to take the initial steps toward locating a therapist. You may need to provide added emotional support by accompanying your loved one to their first visit.
Therapy can be taxing, but having someone for emotional support after an appointment is an added comfort.
Is Your Senior Loved One Struggling With The Idea of Talk Therapy?
Talk therapy is just one of the many types of therapy available.
Remind your loved one that it can help them cope with life challenges as they grow older. Moreover, therapy can also help them deal with negative thoughts, improve their self-esteem, develop problem-solving skills, and improve their self-awareness.
Once your loved one is ready for therapy, help them schedule a therapy session with a therapist they're interested in working with.
Their new therapist can then create a treatment plan for your loved one with the long-term goal of enhancing your loved one’s quality of life.