Mental health in India is almost missing today, especially for the ones who had recent surgeries. To understand how this post-surgical psychological problem can become a major area of concern for senior citizens, we should understand the population growth of senior citizens in India & increase in life expectancy.
As per a report by the United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge India, the senior citizen population in India is projected to grow to 173 million by 2026. Also, the number of surgeries increased by 20% from 2010 to 2015 based on a study done by ICMR ( Indian Council of Medical Research).
The most common surgeries performed on senior citizens in India are:
- Cataract surgery
- Joint replacement surgery
- Hernia repair surgery
- Gallbladder removal surgery
- Prostate surgery
Undergoing surgery can be a significant life event, especially for senior citizens. While the focus is often on the physical aspects of recovery, it’s equally important to address the psychological impact that surgery can have on older adults.
Common Post-Surgical Psychological Problems in Elderly
Anxiety: A study published in the journal “Aging and Mental Health” in 2017 found that 30% of senior citizens who had surgery experienced anxiety. The risk of anxiety was higher for senior citizens who had major surgery, who had a history of anxiety, or who had a poor understanding of their surgery.
Depression: A study published in the journal “The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry” in 2018 found that 20% of senior citizens who had surgery experienced depression. The risk of depression was higher for senior citizens who had major surgery, who had a history of depression, or who had a poor social support network.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A study published in the journal “Surgery” in 2019 found that 5% of senior citizens who had surgery experienced PTSD. The risk of PTSD was higher for senior citizens who had major surgery, who had a history of trauma, or who had a poor understanding of their surgery.
Social isolation: A study published in the journal “The Gerontologist” in 2020 found that 15% of senior citizens who had surgery experienced social isolation. The risk of social isolation was higher for senior citizens who had major surgery, who had a history of social isolation, or who had a poor physical recovery.
Acknowledge and Validate Emotions
The first step in managing the impact of post-surgical psychological problems faced by senior citizens is to acknowledge and validate the range of emotions that seniors may experience. It’s common for older adults to feel anxiety, fear, sadness, or even a sense of vulnerability after surgery. These emotions are natural responses to the challenges and changes they face.
Watch out for early signs of emotional distress, such as persistent sadness, withdrawal from social activities, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, or increased irritability. If you notice these signs, encourage open communication and create a supportive environment where seniors can express their feelings without judgment. Assure them that their emotions are valid and that it’s okay to seek emotional support during this time.
Foster Social Connections
Social isolation can worsen the impact of post-surgical psychological problems on seniors. It’s essential to maintain and strengthen social connections during the recovery period.
Encourage family members, friends, and community members to visit or connect with the senior through phone calls or video chats. Engage them in activities that promote social interaction, such as joining support groups, participating in community events, or pursuing hobbies that involve social engagement.
Encourage a Positive Mindset
Helping seniors cultivate a positive mindset can greatly contribute to their emotional well-being during the recovery process. Encourage them to focus on the progress they are making rather than dwelling on limitations or setbacks.
Watch out for early signs of negative thinking patterns, such as excessive worry, self-doubt, or a constant focus on the negative aspects of their recovery. Encourage positive self-talk and remind them of their resilience and strength. Engaging in mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can also help seniors stay present and manage anxiety or negative thoughts.
Establish a Routine
Having a structured daily routine can provide seniors with a sense of stability and purpose during the recovery period. Work with them to create a schedule that includes rest, medication management, rehabilitation exercises, social activities, and hobbies.
Watch out for signs of disengagement or lack of motivation, such as difficulty sticking to the routine, withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities, or a general sense of aimlessness. Ensure that the routine is realistic, allowing for necessary rest and recovery while also providing opportunities for engagement and stimulation. Following a routine can help seniors regain a sense of control and normalize their daily lives.
Seek Professional Help
If the impact of post-surgical psychological problems persists or intensifies, it may be beneficial for seniors to seek professional help. Watch out for early signs of worsening emotional distress, such as persistent and overwhelming sadness, feelings of hopelessness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or thoughts of self-harm.
Encourage them to talk to their healthcare provider or a mental health professional who specializes in working with older adults. Professional support can provide seniors with strategies to manage anxiety, depression, or any other psychological challenges they may be facing. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or counseling can equip seniors with coping mechanisms and tools to navigate their emotions effectively.
The impact of post-surgical psychological problems on senior citizens should not be overlooked. By addressing the emotional well-being of older adults during the recovery process, we can help them navigate the challenges and promote a more holistic healing experience.
Watch out for early signs of emotional distress, such as persistent sadness, withdrawal from social activities, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, or increased irritability. Encouraging open communication, fostering social connections, promoting a positive mindset, establishing a routine, and seeking professional help when needed are essential steps in managing the psychological impact of surgery on seniors.
Remember, each senior’s experience is unique, and it’s crucial to provide individualized support and understanding throughout their recovery journey. With the right care and attention, we can help senior citizens regain their emotional well-being and facilitate a successful post-surgery recovery.