Psychosocial/Emotional Issues: Seniors and their families


Centers on Aging
Older adults and their family members/caregivers often encounter new and challenging psychosocial issues that accompany aging. As with any stage in the life cycle, there are adjustments to made and social and emotional responses that need to be handled.

Older adults may face many changes in the social context of their lives. Retirement is often the major change. It brings into question �what next?� which may be frightening and confusing. Loss of ones� peers through relocation and/or death also occurs. Feelings of abandonment and loneliness are common. At times, individuals feel adrift with little sense of purpose to their lives. They may also face increasingly poor health that renders them less independent. The feelings of dependency are usually unwelcome and may create a sense of shame and embarrassment.

Emotional responses vary for each individual. Many, however, experience some type of depression due to the changes of aging. There are feelings of sadness, anger, and fear. Mood swings are often common and distressing to the person experiencing them as well to those close to him/her.

Family members of older adults also react to the changes of aging. Often, the dynamics and previous balance in the family are altered. This can be a difficult adjustment for all concerned, particularly if roles shift and some family members (particularly adult children) take on caregiving responsibilities. Feelings of resentment and anger may surface. The older adult may feel like a �burden� and the caregivers may well feel �burdened�.

Communication among family members may be compromised. Painful feelings and responses are difficult to verbalize and may be �swept under the rug�. Illness and disability may present barriers to conversation.

Counseling and support services are often useful in managing these issues. They can promote more open communication as well as help to examine alternative solutions to various problems. Various options are available and may be explored.


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