Is it just the blues, or is your loved one experiencing something more? It can be hard to identify symptoms of mental illness in older adults because many common signs – fatigue, cognitive changes, or appetite differences, for example – are also associated with aging. You may be surprised at just how prevalent mental illness is among seniors. About 15 percent of adults ages 60 and older have some form of mental disorder, most commonly dementia or depression. These illnesses can take a serious toll on both the individual who is suffering and his or her family, friends, and caregivers.
Many factors can lead to mental illness in older adults, even those who have never suffered from mental health challenges previously. Major life changes, such as the death of a partner or loved one, or a move to a new facility, are one common cause. Another possible cause is serious illness or physical disability, which might lead your loved one to feel anxious or depressed. Mental illness and dementia may also be caused by medications or medical issues such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In order to help a loved one who might be suffering, you should be aware of some common symptoms of mental illness to watch out for. These symptoms might include:
- Changes in mood (for example, your usually easy-going relative is getting angry more often)
- Less interest in doing enjoyable activities
- Feeling disoriented or having trouble concentrating
- Being less sociable or interested in social activities
- Changes in appetite, sleep, or hygiene
- Memory loss, and particular, changes in short-term memory
- Thoughts of suicide or harming oneself (if your loved one has these kinds of thoughts, seek professional help immediately)
If you notice that your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, you can talk to him or her to find out more about these differences you have seen. If you suspect that mental illness might be the culprit, get a doctor or mental health professional involved in the conversations. These symptoms should not be ignored, as they can lead to reduced quality of life, substance abuse, or even suicidal behavior. In an emergency, call 911.
If you are worried that your loved one is suffering from a mental illness or disorder, the good news is that many such issues can be treated by therapy, medication, or even lifestyle changes. Talk to a professional to find out which treatments might be most beneficial for your loved one. If possible, find a practitioner who specializes in the care of older adults.
You may find that your loved one is in need of long-term care. If that is the case, Paying for Senior Care can help you answer questions about types of care and how you can pay. When you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Ask the long-term care expert your questions today!