Potential Mental Health Problems for Older Adults


Last updated 7/16/2023 at 3:39pm | View PDF

Isolation can put someone's mental health at risk.

We live in an era where people talk openly about mental health more than ever before. And yet, according to Mental Health America, 68% of older adults know little or nothing about depression.

It's a statistic that's particularly troubling as seniors are prone to a variety of factors unique to their demographic that can put them at risk for a mental health concern:

• The passing of a spouse, partner, sibling(s), family members or long-time friends;

• Concerns about their own health, both physical and cognitive;

• Fear of falling;

• Isolation and loneliness among older adults who live alone;

• Side effects from medications; and

• Concerns about losing independence.

It's important for loved ones to pay careful attention to the possibility of mental health concerns in older adults. It could come quickly in the aftermath of a big life change, or simply grow gradually over time. Among the warning signs:

• Heightened stress or worry;

• Increased negativity, anger or irritability;

• Feelings of hopelessness;

• Trouble sleeping;

• Changes in appetite;

• New or unexplained physical symptoms, such as muscle tension or pain, shaking or sweating; and

• Deterioration in hygiene.

If you notice a change in demeanor in a loved one, particularly if it persists, then it's worth starting a conversation.

It's also important to involve their physician, who can track physical changes, reconsider medications and has knowledge of their history. A physician might also be able to recommend a trusted mental health specialist.

Along with involving professionals, there are a few things you can do to help your loved one:

• Encourage them to start, or increase, a physical fitness program, which can have a tangible effect on mental health for people of all ages;

• Re-ignite their interest in a long-time hobby or passion; or

• Join your loved one in a community volunteer project. Find a cause important to them and help at events.

Mental Health

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia and their condition is progressing, it's important to be as aware of their mental health as other symptoms, and work with an expert to help them.

The National Institute of Mental Health has criteria for diagnosing depression in those with memory loss, which along with changes in mood include two of the following symptoms occurring over a period of weeks, or even longer:

• Isolation, and withdrawing from activities and social opportunities;

• Changes in appetite;

• Poor sleep and increased fatigue;

• Increased agitation or irritability;

• Excessive guilt; or

• Recurring thoughts or discussion of death.

This article is courtesy of Prestige Assisted Living at Visalia. To learn more about their wellness programming or community, or to book a tour, visit prestigecare.com/Visalia or call (559) 735-0828.


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