mental health

Tri-City Medical Center: Helping older adults manage their mental health

For older adults, healthy aging involves more than just maintaining wellness or physical health; it also means focusing on wellbeing, happiness and emotional state of mind. Mental health affects how a person thinks, feels, acts and copes with life’s stressors; it is essential at every stage of life, even late adulthood.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, many older adults are at risk for mental health problems, but these issues should not be considered a normal part of aging. Studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, even though they may have more physical healthcare problems.

Reyzan Shali, MD, a board-certified internist at Tri-City Primary Care, enjoys seeing older patients in her practice as they remind her of her parents and grandparents. “I have the greatest respect for seniors as they have done so much for our families, communities and country during their lifetimes, and we owe it to them to take good care of them.”As a mature Kurdish woman from Iraq, Dr. Shali understands how people’s age, ethnicity and culture may impact their attitudes about mental health.

“For many, mental health is still stigmatized and frowned upon; it’s something you hide under the rug,” said Dr. Shali. “I am trying to help them change their mindset so that they are more open to talking about their feelings with me or a counselor. “Never has this been more important than now. A recent AARP study found that most older adults say the pandemic has created emotional issues, including increased sadness, depression, worry, anger, loneliness and anxiety; women are more likely than men to acknowledge these challenges.

“Even though the pandemic has caused a great deal of stress for everyone, it has also created an opportunity where people are now willing to admit that they are struggling with their wellbeing and need help,” said Dr. Shali. “This is a major step forward. I welcome these conversations with my older patients and reinforce that it’s perfectly normal to feel this way, as we are all human.”

Dr. Shali works with each patient to determine the best course of treatment. She often refers her older patients to Tri-City’s Behavioral Health Services for outpatient care, during which time a therapist might recommend that the patient could benefit from medication. She will discuss this option with her patient, and if they both agree, then prescribe and manage the patient’s medications to improve wellbeing.

“I care deeply about my older patients, as they are someone’s grandmother or father,” said Dr. Shali. “It’s just as important that I help them manage their mental health as physical health, as the two go hand-in-hand.”

To learn more about the Primary Care Services offered at Tri-City Medical Center, call855-222-8262to be referred to a Tri-City Primary Care physician.

Read more “The Pulse of North County” columns.

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