Seven Ways Nurses Can Help Improve Mental Health in Senior Adults

Geriatrics is a field of medicine focusing on providing care and attention to elderly patients suffering from more than one chronic illness. Geriatric nurses specialize in the health problems of aging patients and work in clinics, hospitals, retirement homes, or nursing communities. They provide constant care to elderly patients with weak immunity and decreasing body functions. They also facilitate families in providing care to elderly relatives in the patients’ homes.

Being a geriatric nurse is demanding because you have to focus on preventive care while monitoring pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis. You may also have to take charge of mentally impaired patients or those permanently confined to their beds. 

Today, we will discuss how nurses can play a vital role in improving mental health in senior adults. With that said, let’s take a look:

Professional Help and Counseling

Caring for elderly patients can be challenging because they are often impatient, quick-tempered, and unresponsive. Debilitating pain, chronic illnesses, and mental health issues in aging people can further darken their moods and plunge them into hopelessness and despair. Thus the future of geriatrics requires compassionate nurses with the skill and expertise to remain calm around elderly patients and to engage them in activities that help boost their confidence and morale. The PMHNP Post Masters Certificate Online enables you to learn how to evaluate, diagnose, and care for patients facing mental health issues across the globe. You can gain in-depth experience and widen the scope of your career through extensive studies and evidence-based training sessions online to better prepare yourself for providing quality care to patients of all ages in any part of the world.

Best Activities for Elderly Patients

Aging patients can suffer from severe depression when deteriorating health forces them to shift into nursing facilities, or they experience a decrease in motility after a fall or due to ailments like stroke and arthritis. In such conditions, they may encounter anxiety and refuse to participate in any activities. Likewise, older adults living alone at home may feel secluded and morose because of an absence of social interaction. As a geriatric nurse, your focus should be on encouraging your patients to engage in relaxing and fun activities that can renew their sense of purpose and give them something to feel excited about. Doing so will help improve their mental health. Some of the best activities for all senior patients, especially those with restricted movement, include the following:

Encourage Reading

Reading offers so many advantages to people of all ages. It is the perfect activity for older adults, promising a delightful way to pass the time while stimulating the brain. As a nurse, you can encourage your elderly patients to read something interesting daily. Daily reading helps boost memory and retention while decreasing stress and cognitive decline. Reading in bed at night also improves sleep.

Your patient can read physical books and magazines, opt for an e-reader, or listen to audiobooks online. You can also arrange weekly book club meetings among friends and family for elders to enjoy reading while socializing.

Encourage Exercising

As a nurse, you must be aware of the importance of physical activity, so you should help your patients exercise regularly. Even if your senior patient has restricted mobility, there are several exercises you can help them perform to keep their bodies moving. Engaging in simple exercises, yoga, and stretches while sitting or standing can improve health and uplift their moods. You can also provide exercise routines featuring a walker for stability or those focusing on the lower limbs to prevent swelling.

Encourage Journaling

Journaling is an excellent way to vent your emotions, and you should encourage your patients to maintain a journal. Older adults with dementia are most prone to facing severe depression because of the side effects of medications or because of a lack of meaningful activities in their lives. Feelings of isolation and boredom can feed depression. Through daily journaling, your patients can vent their thoughts and emotions without feeling judged, and doing so can also help them structure their daily routines. 

Foster Art Therapy

Art therapy provides an excellent way to discover your creative side and distract yourself when feeling mellow. Hence as a nurse, you should emphasize the benefits of art therapy. Living with dementia can curtail one’s confidence and self-reliance because people with dementia must seek help from family, even for the simplest tasks. Doing so decreases their self-esteem and induces feelings of incompetence. Hence, encourage your patient to feel more confident by engaging them in creative activities like scrapbooking, which improves agility while serving as a good source of distraction for the mind. Art therapy also reduces blood pressure and boosts memory. Such projects keep your patients active during the day, facilitating better sleep at night, thereby resulting in a healthier routine.

Encourage them to Watch Movies

Although elderly patients may have memory problems, it is always a good idea to encourage them to plan a movie night with family and friends because doing so enables them to leave the house and interact with others. Advise the family to select a short film with an uplifting and lively plot to encourage happy feelings. Naturally, your senior patients may have difficulty keeping track of the story. However, you can still motivate them to go with their family to the movies once in a while because going to the theater provides an opportunity to dress up, get some physical exertion, and experience fresh air and emotions.

Encourage Participation in Charity

As a geriatric nurse, you should encourage your patients to participate in voluntary charity since it is an excellent means to give a sense of purpose to them. Doing so is a perfect way to interact with people online or in person, and helping those less fortunate provides a sense of purpose and achievement. Even if your senior patient has limited mobility or is homebound, they can still engage in online charity and find a means to give back to the community.

You can encourage the family members to approach local charities, religious organizations, or shelters and hospitals to determine if they have any suitable projects your older patient can participate in. That could include assembling care packages, knitting blankets, crocheting hats, collecting litter, or holding educational classes for poor children at local shelters and orphanages.


Every individual is different and has a unique set of likes and dislikes. What is relevant and exciting to one senior might not attract another. Hence a vital aspect of determining purposeful activities for seniors is to realize what matters to the individual. The most crucial factor is what makes them feel good about themselves. While some elderly patients may prefer spending the most time at home reading or crocheting, others might need to perform something more substantial to feel good.

If you are a caregiver or a hired nurse, you should patiently have multiple conversations with your senior to determine what is most enjoyable for them. Discuss the best activities to improve mental health in your patient and encourage the family to participate in your plans.