ADHD in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s
Compared to men, woman at all ages have more varied responsibilities, multiple roles, more often the ones structuring their children’s lives (who are also likely to have ADHD). Although all ages can be impacted by the following factors, symptoms of ADHD tend to be more problematic at the following ages:
- The impact of increased demands and life stressors such as # of children, (likely to also have ADHD) and if they are caring for elderly parents.
- Functioning will also depend on the level of support available from spouse, friends, and family and the number and severity of additional life stressors
- A history of learning difficulties (expected to help children with homework)
- Ability to multi-task since expected to juggle multiple tasks at once.
- Organizational difficulties and feeling overwhelmed
- Comorbid conditions such as anxiety and OCD.
- Menstruation: During low estrogen production memory difficulties are noted and weaknesses in concentrating can occur.
- Hormone changes around pregnancy, post-partum, and perimenopause can intensify co-occurring mood symptoms and also can impact medication effectiveness.
- Beginning to be impacted by any pre-existing co-occurring cognitive deficits as well as the impact of age-related memory loss.
- Co-occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety
- Menopause can exacerbate symptoms of ADHD with cognitive inconsistencies such as increased difficulty with short term memory for some women.
- Level of support available from friends, and family
- Comorbid depression
- Cognitive deficits exacerbated by potentially significant age-related memory loss combined with inconsistent attention as well as difficulty with sustained attention.
- Impact on workplace is primarily around cognitive deficits that may occur particularly with short term memory.
Areas women with ADHD need help with regarding home life:
- Household organization
- Marital relationship issues
Self-esteem issues are significant for women who often describe life at home as feeling like an endless rush of chores and responsibilities that they are “falling short on”. When undiagnosed, these women often will report that they don’t understand why other women can do these things easily and they cannot. Women sometime report feeling like they are “failing” at life.
Women are more likely to be open to exploring the mind-body connection. Understanding this connection allows women to apply the strategies more effectively than someone who isn’t open to learning about the impact of his inner world. An approach to organizing for example may include beginning with a brief exploration around discovering how behaviors related to ADHD contribute to external chaos for example. This additional step of self observation allows us to then set an intention to change the behavior and build new habits.
While it may take only a few hours to clear out clutter or piles, it takes several weeks if not months to learn the habits from the inside out so that the clutter does not quickly re-occur. Society however doesn’t teach these strategies and expects that woman in particular should just “know” how to organize, it is never taught to us.
Shift your awareness to what you do that creates the clutter:
Once you study your lifestyle and how you move through space, you will get at the source of the clutter. This is more than half the battle to fixing it. When we assess why we do the things we do we can then put strategies in place to help us change the behavior.
Love what you own:
When de-cluttering use three categories as your guide: keep, toss and donate.
It is wonderful to be able to give something away that is still useful to someone and in style. If you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it.
When you get something new, make a point to get rid of something old.
Focus on what you do want, not on what you don’t want:
Rather than remaining stuck in the problem at hand, try shifting your attention to the solution or how you want things to be. This positive shift in energy is refreshing for everyone, includes yourself as well as your family.
Treatment strategies for Improving Memory:
Teaching woman strategies for using a calendar and Notebook: this is not intuitive to women with ADHD although society behaves as if it is.
The following are very helpful research based strategies which are taught to women in individual work with an ADHD coach
- Only one Calendar and one Notebook to be used.
- Take these with you everywhere you go.
- Learn to write ALL plans and commitments in it.
- Live by the following rule: DO IT NOW OR WRITE IT DOWN!
- Make a To-Do List in the notebook.
- These replace ALL pieces of paper, sticky notes, writing on your hand, appointment cards.
- Phone messages from voice mail or other places go into the notebook as a “to-do-item”.
- Dates and times should be specified to complete certain tasks. Estimate time and block that time on the calendar.
- Over-estimate how much time each task will require to compensate for inaccurate time estimation.
- Calendar and To-Do List should be looked at every day. This will be painful at first until a habit is formed…commit to 3 months. Then using the calendar and notebook will get easier and the benefits will be clear.
- Do not obsess trying to get a perfect system. Keep it simple, otherwise there will be no system.
Placing an item that should be taken to work directly on the stair landing or in front of the door will visually be an effective prompt (particularly if you can’t get out the door without moving the item).
Notes at the door to yourself should be placed at eye level and in highly visible spots and written on large colorful paper.
Placing items you are likely to forget next to ones they are highly unlikely to forget. For example, place mail on top pocketbook next to the door.
Backups for Essential Items
If reading glasses are essential at work, keep an inexpensive second pair in desk at work.
Keep an extra set of care keys, medication, emergency money, etc… at work as well as hidden strategically in a magnetic container on the car.
Duplicate house keys and hide them strategically.
Consider leaving one days supply of medication at your office in a safe, locked place to avoid a possible ADHD emergency.
Providing structure at home:
Specific and convenient places need to be assigned for backpacks, bags, cell phones, keys etc... Keep these items in the same place everyday!
The general level of household clutter needs to be reduced. If hiring a personal organizer or a friend to help with this is not possible, try the following:
Purchase storage containers and label drawers, boxes, and containers for easy memory and organization.
Keep the system simple.
Use bright colors and convenient storage locations.
Identify the categories of times that tend to pile up. Do they have a place where they officially belong?
Cognitive Therapy with a psychologist who specializes in ADHD
•Allows people with ADHD recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that impacts well being.
•Strategies are taught to notice “triggers” and then break the link between negative thinking and reduced mood which often spirals into feelings of depression and/or anxiety.
•Women develop and practice allowing distressing moods, thoughts, and sensations to come and go, without having to get “caught up”. In the present moment, people are free from ruminating about the past, or worry about the future.
Treatment strategies also include learning meditation as a method for regulating attention and awareness.
o Often women in their 40’s feel that finding the time to begin even a brief meditation practice is too difficult, compared to women in their 50’s and 60’s. Similarly, as women age they often enjoy the companionship of activities such as yoga which also facilitates increased awareness and attention.
o Women are taught via individual therapy to learn to notice when her mind wanders, she is then taught to gently bring it back to the moment. (People with ADHD vary on the most helpful target for attention; ranging from the sound of a water fountain, something visual to focus like a flower or candle, the breathe, or a mantra or word to use as a focal point.
o Women also benefit from learning about mindfulness meditation which is essentially noticing where what predominates in awareness moment to moment. In other words, women learn to pay attention on purpose, which helps them feel more in control of distractions, often for the first time in their lives.