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Seniors' mental health after Hurricane Ian

David Lawrence Center
Posted at 5:11 PM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-21 18:33:21-04

NAPLES, Fla. — A little more than three weeks after Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida, Lee Pence of Fort Myers decided to volunteer in her senior citizen community by checking identification as people entered her neighborhood.

“Everybody is contributing the best way they can,” Pence said. “It feels good to help. That’s the thing you have to do, keep helping.”

Pence said volunteering is therapeutic in some ways, as her neighborhood is still in the thick of cleanup after the storm. It keeps her heart and mind feeling healthy.

Others, sadly, are struggling.

“We are starting to see an uptick for sure,” Angela Lopez, a licensed clinical social worker at David Lawrence Centers in Naples, said about the increase of people reaching out for help since the storm.

Lopez said seniors are often hesitant to reach out for such help.

“They tend to keep those sufferings within themselves. They don’t want to be a burden to others,” she said.

There are signs to watch for. According to Lopez, loss of appetite, low energy and loss of interest in things they previously loved are all signs that a senior citizen could be struggling with depression or anxiety.

“Reach out to them. Check on them. Ask them how they’re doing. Give them some time to talk about their day,” Lopez said.

“I think it is very important, just to know that somebody cares, that somebody wants to help if they can,” Pence said.

Lopez said most counties have a community mental health resource that will work with people with or without insurance.

“It’s hard for older people to ask for help," Pence said. "But when it’s offered, it’s okay to take it."