What are the Top Five Issues that Impact Mental Health for Boomer Women?
Number One Issue – Changing Health
One would think menopause would be the priority concern. It\’s not. Even with the change in medical advice in the past 5-6 years to avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), the women I see seem to adjust with little complaint to the hormonal and cognitive (memory) changes that accompany menopause.
Their most difficult adjustments are to chronic illnesses that begin to surface as they enter their Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies. Top on the list is Type 2 Diabetes. With the tremendous obesity crisis that faces our nation, more and more women, even without family histories, are developing this disease, which can have devastating consequences even when properly treated. And the course of the disease is greatly impacted by other stressors which can send blood sugars rocketing into the danger zone.
Coming close behind is heart disease (a hidden killer for women) and breast cancer. Who hasn\’t had a good friend or loved one, if not themselves, who has battled breast cancer? Lung cancer, especially for those who have never overcome nicotine addiction, runs close behind.
Advice? Whether a current or potential victim for these disorders, changes NOW can make a difference. Health eating, a daily walk or sit-and-be-fit program, proper medical screenings (okay…it\’s a mite ouchy, but get that mammogram), and stress reduction are still the major keys to a healthier you.
Number Two Issue – Caregiving
Women in their midlife years have the ultimate burden in caregiving. I rarely interview a new female patient over fifty who isn\’t the primary caretaker not just for one other person but often for several. Elderly parents top the list but grandchildren of drug-addicted or irresponsible children run close behind. Spouses who have fallen ill to chronic or life-threatening diseases come next. Siblings also are on the list.
Not only are hours spent in direct caregiving, but many additional hours are spent tracking down resources and watching over the professional caregivers in nursing homes and hospitals. In addition, women are often grieving a significant loss of one loved one as they turn their attention to caretaking the next. It is not unusual to encounter women who have had four or more significant losses within a single year.
Advice? Turn your attention to caretaking the caregiver…YOU! Respite time, delegating tasks, and, yes, just saying NO are important.
Number Three Issue – Problems with Grown Children
Too many women come to therapy seeking answers for others…especially their grown children. Women are perennial fixers…wanting advice on how to help their son get a job or their daughter to get rid of a battering spouse. They truly believe that if they could say or do just the right thing that they could parent these adult children into better lives.
Advice? Follow the advice of Al Anon—the Twelve Step program for families and loved ones of alcoholic: Let Go and Let God. Detachment and limit setting are the skills necessary. And a good support group that advises Minding Your Own Business.
Number Four Issue – Problems with Spouses/Partners
Many women have given up fixing their spouse or partner—which is probably okay. But some women are still living in situations where there is daily verbal, even physical abuse. It is never too late to get professional and community-based help to find a safe environment or ways to protect yourself.
Advice? Al Anon is a good start for spouses of alcoholics and addicts (remember prescription pain medications are addictive as well as street drugs). Every community has resources for Battered Women—call now. And contact your county\’s Social Service agency for the Aging for more assistance.
Number Five Issue – Facing the Future
Last month I discussed the tremendous impact that the financial crisis in our country is having on women in their “golden” years. Houses and cars repossessed, credit destroyed, no feasible way to replenish savings.
Add to this the steady stream of losses that accompany these years. Loss of health, loss of loved ones and supportive friends, and the BIG ONE—loss of independence.
Advice? In my Women\’s Midlife Support Group, which I have run for the past 18 years at the HMO where I still work, in the end the answer always comes down to living one day at a time and a spiritual connection to a higher power. Clearing out clutter, learning how to ask for help, a daily gratitude review, and connecting to others for support are also on the help list.
A SAFETY REMINDER: If you feel you have a psychiatric emergency, go directly to a family member, a friend, your physician, your pastor, or the nearest hospital emergency room and tell them you are in crisis and in need of immediate help.
Or Call 911 or one of these numbers:
• 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433
• 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255
• For a Suicide Hotline in your state: www.suicidehotlines.com
Suicide is a permanent and tragic solution to a temporary problem. Get help.