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Kansas City-area senior care expert talks mental health challenges, isolation in elderly population

Right at Home Kami Sjoberg
Posted at 10:08 PM, Jun 05, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kami Sjoberg runs Right at Home, a home care service for senior citizens.

The company has been operating for more than a decade, and it's taught her a lot about senior mental health.

But the job has its challenges.

"It's hard to see somebody losing life," Sjoberg said.

The Centers for Disease Control says 20% of people age 55 and older suffer from mental health issues.

Depressive disorders are the most common mental health issue, but also are chronically under recognized.

Sjoberg says the disorders also can impact physical health.

"Our mental health truly does affect our entire body and I've seen it firsthand," she said.

Older adults visit the hospital more, and are often on more medications.

Older men have the highest suicide rate of any age group, with 45 per 100,000, four times the amount in any other age group.

Sjoberg is reminded of her mother, who struggled with depression.

"As a daughter looking in, it was, it was painful," she said. "My mother struggled with chronic depression and it was very challenging for her to keep motivation to stay connected. She would spend a lot of time in her home alone."

Sjoberg says isolation plays a big part, but her solution for her mom is the same for anyone, get loved ones doing something they love.

"Girls trips always worked," she said. "And family trips. She really enjoyed that. Getting her out of her house, exploring a new area."

Get them out of the house, get them moving and making memories.

"I remember one of my last trips with her, we went to Costa Rica," she said. "And creating and continuing to create those memories is so important."