Older Adults are susceptible to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. With the added stress of a pandemic, many fear getting sick, being physically isolated, and losing social support. Watch for signs and risk factors associated with psychiatric disorders. Carefully assess your loved ones’ behavior and emotional state, and assist them in accessing treatment via teletherapy, if needed.
The most common mental health issues among adults over 65 are dementia, depression, and anxiety disorders. Seniors are more likely to report physical symptoms than psychiatric ones, and they are less likely to seek help on their own. So, keep a close eye on your loved one when dropping off groceries or video chatting. Listen to complaints about chronic pain. Give extra attention to those who have recently experienced illness or the loss of a loved one.
3 Major Mental Health Disorders for Senior Citizens
- Dementia describes adverse changes in memory, thinking, communication, and social abilities. The most common cause of progressive dementia is Alzheimer’s, and there are several other causes as well. Symptoms start slowly and gradually get worse. Someone with dementia may have trouble paying bills, following a recipe, and keeping track of important things. When memory difficulties or changes in thinking disrupt daily life, it’s time to call the doctor.
- Depression negatively affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts. There are several risk factors associated with depression, such as social isolation, stressful life events, and certain medications. A sad mood is just one symptom. People with depression lack interest in things they once enjoyed. They often experience chronic pain and fatigue. Watch for slowed movement or speech and purposeless physical activity such as hand-wringing or pacing. Elderly loved ones may not realize the signs of their own depression. Help them get the care they need.
- Anxiety disorders are common among Older Adults. Feeling worried or nervous is a normal reaction to stressful events such as a global pandemic. When the stress becomes so overwhelming that it impacts daily tasks and social relationships, it’s time to seek help. Undue anxiety leads to impairments to thinking, physical health, and quality of life. Unfortunately, these disorders often go untreated. Seniors may not recognize the symptoms or they may be reluctant to seek treatment.
Signs to Watch For
Occasional forgetfulness is one thing; persistent memory loss can be severe. Feeling anxious or sad are normal emotions, but consistent anxiety and depressed mood can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Monitor your loved ones for the following warning signs:
1. Decrease in grooming habits and household maintenance
2. Difficulty managing finances or working with numbers
3. Confusion, disorientation, and problems concentrating or making decisions
4. Changes in appetite or weight
5. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt or thoughts of suicide
6. Short-term memory problems
7. Unexplained pain, fatigue, or energy loss
8. Social withdrawal and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
9. Changes in sleep patterns
Seek help if your loved one experiences any of these symptoms. Talking with a primary care provider is an excellent place to start; they can refer you to behavioral healthcare services in your community.
Companion Aides and/or Certified Homemaker-Home Health Aides (CHHHA) can help reduce anxiety and loneliness for many Senior Citizens. At Anita’s Angels, Inc., we are Families Helping Families. Call 908-788-9390 to learn how our family can help yours.