Understanding Mental Illness in Seniors
Mental health matters, and it matters for every human being, irrespective of their age, gender, sexuality, race, or other factors. While mental health issues are more common among young people, that does not mean that the elderly do not face such issues.
According to the World Health Organization, 20% of seniors aged 60 or above face some mental or neurological disorder worldwide. It is important to understand mental health issues in the elderly because they may find it harder to deal with them. They have already reached an age where other diseases are common, so it can become difficult for them to even realize they have a mental disorder. Moreover, the stigma attached to mental illness is stronger among seniors. Thus, they might not acknowledge their pain as easily as they would if it were a physical, more obvious issue.
Risk Factors for Mental Illness
The first thing to understand in this regard is the triggers that can elevate any such disease. Having a basic understanding of the risk factors involved in mental health is essential. We have compiled some of the most common triggers that play a part in either initiating or worsening a situation. Knowing them can help you to offer your aging parents or relatives the care they need.
Physical illnesses are common in adults. With age, a person’s risk of developing multiple diseases increases, some of which they may have to live with for the rest of their life. Not only is physical illness a risk factor for a mental illness, but it also makes it difficult to identify a condition that may have been formed as a result of it.
The Loss of Loved Ones
A major contributing factor at this age for illnesses like depression could be the loss of a loved one. Death is a part of life. However, when you reach an age where death finally seems inevitable, losing someone you love can make things harder. It could be their partner or even their children, which can lead to unwanted thoughts that can aggravate the situation.
Smoking or Alcohol Consumption
While you may enjoy drinking in your earlier days, continuing with the habit with age is not recommended. While it can have an adverse effect on your physical health, it can also contribute to mental illnesses that you may not even be aware of.
People opt for home care because they do not want their parents to feel lonely. This is an effective way of tackling the issue. However, you should make sure that the attention and care that a Home Health Aide (HHA) provides should not be the only source of happiness for your parents.
Whenever possible, make sure you take out time and talk to your parents. This will help them cope with their loneliness, which can lead to severe conditions.
Amongst other physical disorders, chronic pain is another contributor to mental illnesses. If the elderly at your place suffers from this, you may want to keep an eye on the symptoms of various mental health illnesses.
Loss of Mobility
Freedom is not something that only teenagers want. As much as a senior would not want to admit it, losing the ability to move freely or taking care of themselves does add up to uncontrollable anxiety. While one can certainly not change the circumstances, reassurance can work well in such cases.
Being cranky and picky about food is common in the elderly. However, it would help if you kept an eye on their diet. While it may be a symptom of a specific illness, not having a proper diet also contributes to seniors’ initiating a disease. Hence, do ensure that they follow a healthy and happy diet.
Symptoms of Specific Mental Health Issues
Apart from the risk factors mentioned above, it is imperative to learn about the symptoms of mental illness. By doing so, you can take the required action and get started with the treatment. Here are some common symptoms of the most recurring mental illnesses in the elderly.
Being a mood disorder, depression can affect anyone, including seniors. If not treated, depression can lead to physical and mental impairments. Hence, it is crucial to be extremely cautious of the common symptoms that depressed people show.
These include but are not limited to:
- Feeling sad all the time.
- Experiencing discomfort or even physical pain in some cases.
- Having issues in sleeping routine.
- Not enjoying activities that they loved doing.
Just like depression, anxiety issues are also extremely common in the elderly. There is a high chance for a senior to face anxiety disorder, which can then cause depression. Another thing common between these two disorders is that they are more common in women.
Treating issues like anxiety and depression gets difficult because the symptoms cannot be seen. Often, the elderly tend to ignore them or keep it to themselves not to feel embarrassed. If you want to identify or clear your doubts, watch out for these symptoms:
- Being restless or feeling nervous for little things.
- Remaining irritated.
- Tensed muscles.
- Getting tired quite easily.
- Worrying for minor things.
- Disturbed sleep routine.
Keep in mind that the above symptoms are for generalized anxiety disorder. It is the most common type of anxiety disorder. However, there can be other types as well.
Another illness that an elderly may experience is bipolar disorder. It is significant to talk about bipolar disorder because it can often be confused with other diseases, especially dementia. The shift in personalities caused by bipolar disorder can be taken lightly by some seniors. However, if it is not just casual mood swings and the disease itself, it is best to get the treatment done. Some symptoms may include:
- Feeling irritated, agitated, and confused.
- Being hyperactive.
- Facing cognitive issues.
We know that as the caregiver of a senior, you want to ensure they have the best health. However, if you think it is difficult for you to pay full attention to them because of your busy schedule, it is best to hire home care services. By doing so, you can ensure their safety and spend time with them whenever possible.
If you require further assistance for home care services, give us a call at 718-461-9602 or drop an email at [email protected]so that we can take the process forward!