It is not surprising the elderly often suffer from dementia or severe cognitive impairment. In fact, this is one of the most common mental health issues among the elderly with an estimated 5 million senior adults suffering from Alzheimer’s, which is approximately 11 percent of all senior citizens in America according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Mood disorders and depression are also common among elderly adults according to srcarecenter.com . Unfortunately, mood disorders in seniors often go undiagnosed and untreated. Approximately 5 percent of senior citizens are currently experiencing depression according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, only about 10.5 percent of senior citizens report having been diagnosed with depression at some point during their lives.
Another mood disorder that is prevalent in the elderly is anxiety. There are a number of anxiety disorders, including phobias, hoarding syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (also known as PTSD) and obsessive compulsive disorder. Approximately 7.6 percent of Americans aged 65 or older have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during one point of their life, according to the CDC.
What Risk Factors Are Associated with Mental Illness?
One of the ongoing issues with diagnosing and treating mental illnesses in senior citizens is that senior citizens will typically report physical symptoms before they will ever report a psychiatric complaint. In addition to this, physical and emotional stresses associated with aging can increase the risk of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety.
The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation has listed a number of triggers of mental illness among the elderly, including:
* Substance abuse, including illicit drugs, alcohol and prescription medications
* A change in the senior citizen’s environment like needing to move into an assisted living facility
* Illnesses that can cause dementia like Alzheimer’s disease
* Long-term illnesses of the senior citizen or their loved one
* The death of a loved one
* Side Effects and/or interactions of medications
* Physical limitations or disabilities
* Illnesses that affect the elderly person’s memory, thoughts or emotions
What Are the Ten Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Elderly?
As your loved one begins to age, certain changes will naturally occur. Forgetfulness can occur; however, memory loss or cognitive decline can become serious.
Another issue is long-term depression or excess anxiety. Caregivers of the elderly should look for warning signs, including the following symptoms:
* Changes in the way the elderly dresses
* Difficulties in the elderly maintaining their lawn or home
* Issues with decision making, concentration, disorientation or confusion
* Weight changes or changes in the elderly’s appetite
* Periods of depression lasting more than two weeks
* Feelings of helplessness, guilt or worthlessness or any thoughts of suicide
* Recent or short-term memory problems or memory loss
* Unexplained physical problems like constipation, diarrhea and aches and pains
* Withdrawing socially or losing interest in things that the senior citizen once enjoyed
* Difficulty working with numbers or handling their finances
* Unexplained sleep changes, low energy levels or fatigue
If your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation urges the senior’s loved ones to seek out help.
There are numerous professionals that will work with you to help you get your loved one the assistance that they need. Start by speaking with their family doctor. Other options include mental health counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. The most important thing to remember is your loved one does not have to suffer alone; there is assistance available to help.