Many times, it is easy to see when an older adult needs help. Usually this is physical: a person may need more help with mobility; a person may need glasses for seeing; a person may need hearing aids. But it is not always easy to tell when a senior may be suffering with their mental health. Here are a few signs to tell whether a senior adult may be struggling with their mental health.
Seniors often withdraw or isolate themselves from their social circles when they have mental health issues. They may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and may avoid social gatherings altogether.
Changes in Personal Care
Senior citizens with psychological issues may alter their regular personal care routines. This may include changes in appearance or dress, neglecting personal hygiene, or trouble maintaining their home.
Changes in Eating Habits
A sudden change in eating habits can be equally troubling. Seniors may start to avoid foods they previously loved or overlooking nutritious meals to binge on junk food instead. Their appetite may not be as robust as it once was, or they may excessively eat more than is normal. Changes in weight may be a sign that that they are over or under eating.
Changes in Sleeping Patterns
Like eating, a disturbance in normal sleeping patterns can be an indication of a mental health issue. This may look like waking up at different times from their previous pattern or sleeping longer than they normally would.
Warning signs and indicators of depression include the notable changes above long with changes in mood or energy level. They may have increased anxiety irritability, or aggressiveness. They may also experience sadness or feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. If left untreated, depression in older adults can have a severe impact. Research shows that depression increases in people who also have physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. Depression can also complicate the treatment of these conditions or keep people from seeking treatment at all.
Abusing a substance such as alcohol is not just something younger folks do. Elderly people may react to grief, depression, or isolation by misusing a substance. Binge drinking among the elderly is on the rise. Senior adults are more vulnerable to the negative health effects of binge drinking because excessive alcohol consumption can have dangerous interactions with medications and worsen other health conditions. They may also try to misuse their medications and take more or less than is prescribed.
Be careful to not automatically write off memory issues as a “normal” part of aging. It could be something more serious that requires treatment. Indicators of memory problems are misplacing belongings, inability to recognize a loved one, and asking for the same information that they inquired about just minutes earlier.
Hallucinations or Delusions
Seeing something that isn’t really there can be a sign of psychotic break from reality. There are many possible causes, including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. If your senior has hallucinations or delusions, they need to see a doctor.
Common Mental Health Conditions That Impact Seniors
- Anxiety Disorders
- Bipolar Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Substance Abuse
- Trauma and PTSD
- Suicidal Ideation
- Start by helping the senior in your life get a checkup with their primary care doctor.
- Help them make appointments to other care such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
- Check your specific state for contact information to help with getting the care your older adult may need such as housing, assisted living, mental health options, and more. A great state by state guide can be found here: https://www.assistedliving.org/assisted-living-for-people-with-mental-health-disorders/