Early Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Issues in Seniors
May 18, 2023
Mental health issues can occur at any age but are particularly prevalent in older adults. More than 20% of adults aged 60 or older struggle with at least one mental or neurological disorder, the most common of which are dementia and depression. If you have an elderly loved one in your life, it’s important to watch for the following warning signs.
Signs of Mental Health Issues in Older Adults
Everyone experiences ups and downs in their mood from time to time. But if your loved one experiences lows that persist for more than two weeks, take note. Symptoms like sadness, disinterest in otherwise favored activities, and other depressive symptoms could be indicative of depression or dementia.
“Mood changes don’t just involve notable sadness,” remarks Dr. Rick Brewer, Chief Medical Officer at Morgan Medical Center. “Your loved one may simply seem withdrawn, or have difficulty expressing positive emotions. Sometimes, these conditions can also manifest as anger or irritability, so be mindful if your senior seems to exhibit unusual aggressiveness or limited patience.”
When someone is affected by cognitive or other mental health issues, they may not act like themselves. Your loved one may engage in dangerous or compulsive behaviors that are out of character for them, such as spending money frivolously or abusing alcohol or other substances. There may also be noticeable changes to their personal hygiene or home care routines. They can also experience hallucinations, such as seeing or hearing people or things that aren’t there.
We all have forgetful moments from time to time. However, frequent and persistent confusion are often warning signs of something more serious in seniors. They may begin forgetting to pay bills or attend appointments, for instance. It’s also possible for them to become disoriented, such as getting lost on the way home from a nearby errand.
Issues like depression and dementia can have a profound effect on a person’s overall health. Frustratingly, many of the physical symptoms of depression can be misdiagnosed as general signs of aging, such as joint pain, fatigue, appetite changes, and gastrointestinal issues. When complaints of these issues are coupled with the mental, emotional, or behavioral factors described above, it’s worth looking into further.
How to Help if Signs Are Present
It can be overwhelming to pursue a diagnosis if you suspect that your loved one could be facing depression, dementia, or other mental health issues. But know and trust there are resources available to help promote a safer, healthier quality of life. If you’ve noticed changes that could indicate mental health issues, schedule an appointment for your loved one, and be sure to accompany them so you can speak with their provider about any concerns you may have.
Here at Morgan Medical Center, we know that mental health is a critical component of overall wellness. We offer quality medical care for the whole family, including management of long-term conditions and coordination with specialists. Learn more about our comprehensive services online.