Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Elderly

Is your loved one is experiencing symptoms of mental illness or are they just the normal changes we go through as we age?

Mental illness is often under diagnosed and often mistreated in our elderly population.  The symptoms are believed to be just part of the aging process.  There is often more focus on one’s physical wellness then the mental well-being of our elderly.

Approximately 20 % of our elderly commit suicide. That is an alarming statistic!

Here Are Some Facts

Care givers often are in denial of mental health issues of their loved ones.

The elderly are usually reticent and don’t seek medical care.

With the growing number of people over 60 years of age and the decreasing number of Mental Health facilities it is increasingly difficult to find adequate treatment/diagnosis. Combine that with the realization that medical practioners often see physical health issues and mental health issue as one and the same therefore correct treatment is often not provided.

There is still a stigma of receiving mental health care.

Some of the most prevalent mental health issues among the elderly are dementia, especially Alzheimer’s Disease, Depression which can lead to difficulties in social situations and physical well-being, Anxiety such as PTSD, OCD, phobia’s and substance abuse.

Factors That May Cause Mental Illness

As stated earlier many of the elderly tend not to report psychiatric concerns and are more likely to bring physical symptoms to their practitioner’s attention. There are risk factors both physically and emotionally that are normal as we age that can affect us and bring about illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Signs that care givers need to watch out for that can be signs of mental health issues in the elderly.

  • *Change of living situation due to loss of a loved one or needing assistance in daily care.
  • *Pharmaceutical interactions, Alcohol, substance abuse
  • *Dementia/Alzheimer’s
  • *Physical Impairment(s), limitations or long-term illness
  • * Insufficient/obsessive dietary intake

Indications of Mental Illness

It is import to know that as we age changes occur both physically and mentally.  It is expected that we will forget things from time to time.  We can no longer move like we would like to.  Continued memory issues and or cognitive deficiencies can mean that something more serious is going on.  This is also true for severe anxiety or continuing depression.

Warning signs that we need to look for:

  1. Change in appetite, weight gain or loss
  2. Sleep changes such as insomnia or sleeping all the time
  3. An inability to enjoy or engage in social interactions or activities
  4. Tiredness or loss of energy not easily explained
  5. Overwhelming feelings of guilt, helplessness, suicide
  6. Word retrieval problems when tiring to convey thoughts or needs
  7. Changes in ability to handle daily personal care habits such as, brushing teeth, bathing and dressing
  8. Difficulty with making decisions, concentrating, disorientation
  9. Despondent or Disheartened mood lasting for an extended period of time

If your loved one is exhibiting or experiencing any of these symptoms please seek professional help from your family doctor, psychologist or counselor.  Working together with the appropriate professionals you can begin the journey to better mental health.