Leona was worried about her mother. At 85 years old, Marie was had just lost her husband, George, of 60 years. Since George’s death, Leona noticed a marked difference in her mother’s demeanor. Once a very bubbly, chatty, and enthusiastic woman, it was as though Marie’s zest for life had disappeared.
Marie spent her days flipping through old photo albums of her husband and staring blankly out the living room window in her San Francisco Bay home—a home she’d soon have to sell to relocate to a smaller place. On most days when Leona would stop in to check up on her mother after work, Marie hadn’t gotten dressed or had anything to eat.
Of course, Leona wanted to help her mother navigate the process of grieving, but she was dealing with a lot of grief herself after losing her father and didn’t feel she was equipped to help her mother in the way she needed it. Leona had been seeing a counselor to help work through some of her emotions and it helped her immensely. Perhaps, she thought, Marie could benefit from counseling too.
When Leona presented the idea to Marie, she was resistant. She had no interest in leaving the house, let alone talking to a stranger. But after a few weeks of back and forth, Marie finally agreed to go to therapy.
Counseling can be an incredibly powerful experience for aging adults who are struggling mentally and emotionally, whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, the challenges and realities of aging, or social isolation. But with the abundance of senior counseling services here in San Francisco, it can be difficult to know which type of therapy and counselor would be best suited for your aging loved. So, in hopes of trying to help make the search for support a bit easier for you, let’s take a look at some of the features of various types of therapy available in San Francisco and explore some ways to help you and your loved one find the right counselor.
The Many Therapeutic Options for Your Aging Loved One
Anyone who has googled information about therapy and counseling knows that there are many different types of therapy. And while it is great that there is such a variety of different approaches, it can make it difficult to know which is the right fit for you or your loved one.
Generally speaking, the type of therapy to seek out for your aging loved one partially depends on the issues they face. Let’s look at some of the mental and emotional health challenges commonly experienced by aging adults and the types of corresponding therapy that are often used as treatment:
- Loss of a spouse/loved one: As we saw with Marie, losing a spouse can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the loss of a spouse not only comes with a significant amount of grief and sadness, it can also bring about major lifestyle changes for the remaining partner, such as relocating to another home. Bereavement therapy can be extremely effective for aging adults in this situation as it helps them move through feelings of grief and loneliness and cope with significant changes in their lives.
- Physical pain or decreased mobility: We usually think of the physical body and our mind as separate entities, but it turns out that therapy can actually help aging adults with managing physical discomfort and adjusting to their aging bodies. Pain management therapy supplements or replaces medication and incorporates mind-body techniques that effectively reduce physical pain associated with aging. It also helps people cope with the emotional effects of physical pain and physical limitations.
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances: Many adults deal with insomnia or sleep disturbances. While medication can be effective, it often comes with a number of side effects, such as drowsiness, impaired memory, and loss of balance that puts aging adults at a higher risk for dangerous falls. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be extremely effective for the treatment of insomnia by employing relaxation training, stimulus control, and sleep hygiene education to help aging adults sleep.
- Stress/Depression associated with aging: Chronic stress and or depression are not uncommon for aging adults to experience. Retirement, social isolation, and illness are only a few factors that contribute to the development of depression in aging adults. Problem-solving therapy, supportive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are commonly used to help aging adults come to terms with and adapt to their new realities or stressors in their lives. These types of therapies may also address issues of self-esteem and self-worth and help replace negative thoughts and behaviors with more productive, positive ones.
There are, of course, a number of other issues that aging adults face and a plethora of therapies out there. The above-mentioned therapies, however, give you a place to start when it comes to narrowing down the search for seniors counseling services in San Francisco.
Finding the Right Senior Counseling Services in San Francisco
Although it can be useful to get familiar with the different types of therapy available to your loved one, finding the right therapist is important too. In fact, many studies show that the client/therapist relationship (or therapeutic alliance) is just as critical, if not more critical, to the outcome of therapy than the specific techniques used.
Here is a list of key things to look for that will help you narrow down your search for a counselor in San Francisco:
- Someone who specializes in working with older adults. Finding a San Francisco-based counselor who has a great deal of experience working with aging adults is essential. Not only will they be more familiar with many of the unique struggles that aging adults face, they’ll be well-versed in the current research on seniors mental health.
- Proximity to your loved one’s home. Finding a therapist close to your loved one’s home can make it easier for them to engage in treatment. Some counselors who work with aging adults will actually come to their homes. This is especially helpful if your aging loved one has mobility issues or don’t have access to transportation. In fact, having the session at home can actually help increase the comfort level of your loved one.
- A flexible therapist. Finding a counselor who has experience working with a variety of therapeutic techniques, rather than dogmatically adhering to one, can be extremely beneficial to your aging loved one. And while it is important to have a general idea of the type of the above types of therapy, it is ultimately up to the counselor to figure out what techniques would be best suited to your loved one. Keep in mind that this could mean that they fuse a variety of techniques to create a multidimensional approach tailored to your loved one’s needs.
- Affordability. Therapy can be quite expensive, typically ranging between $140 and $200 a session. If your loved one is on a fixed income, it’s a good idea to seek out services that offer reduced rates for aging adults. Institute on Aging’s psychotherapy services, for instance, offers an affordable rate of $50 a session. You’ll also want to check your loved one’s health insurance plan to see if they qualify for complete or partial coverage for mental health services.
It took Marie and Leona a few tries to find a counselor that Marie was comfortable with, but eventually, they found a good fit. In time, Marie was able to work through a lot of the grief she felt and together with her counselor came up with some strategies for combating loneliness and coping with selling her family home. And while none of it was easy, she finally started to feel a sense of peace with her new reality and a glimmer of hope for her future.
Institute on Aging offers a variety of resources for aging adults in the Bay Area, including accessible and affordable mental health services for aging adults. To learn more, contact us today.