Mental Illness in Older Ones
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Symptoms of Mental Illness in Older Adults

As we grow older and begin to age, our habits, appearance, and lifestyle change too. While physical health may start to slowly deteriorate, so may an elderly one’s mental health too – which they may even try to conceal from loved ones.

According to studies by WHO, approximately 15% of adults aged 60+ suffer from a mental illness. What’s more, many may dismiss the symptoms of a mental disorder, thinking it is part of normal signs of aging. Common mental problems that are frequent in the elderly include depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

We’ve put together some symptoms of anxiety and mental illness to look out in older adults so that you can help them get the support they deserve if they are struggling to cope.

Symptoms of Mental Illness in Older Ones

Here are some warning signs that seniors may be experiencing anxiety:

  1. Changes to their personal care

Sometimes, a person who is suffering with their mental health will stop following their usual personal care routines. A noticeable change an older adults appearance could signify that they are having a hard time and are finding it difficult to follow their previous routines or that they are no longer bothered about looking after themselves. While this will look different for each person, some signs to watch out for would include skipping bathing or showering, not eating well or forgoing previous self-care tasks such as putting on makeup.

  1. Withdrawing socially

People who are struggling with a mental illness often become socially withdrawn. If you have noticed an older family member avoiding social engagements regularly or losing interest in activities that they used to love, it could be because they are anxious or depressed. As an example, they may cancel their weekly card game night with their friends because they are struggling to remember how to play or because they are feeling too anxious to participate.

3. Changes in Mood

A change in personality is often associated with mental illnesses. Your elderly family member may experience a range of moods in a short amount of time. If these mood changes last for longer than two weeks, there could be a mental issue behind their altered personality.

Some further signs of anxiety disorders in the elderly include:

  • Irrational thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle soreness and tension
  • Avoidance of social activities
  • Nausea
  • Isolating behaviour
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Panic
  • Shaking
  • Irritability
  • Abusing substances

If you know a senior who is showing any of these warning symptoms, try to patiently encourage them to reach out to a mental health professional who can help diagnose and treat their condition. Bear in mind that some older ones may be hesitant to seek help by themselves, making it even more essential that you are there to support and encourage them along in their treatment.

Letting mental health concerns go untreated in elderly ones can make them worse. It is best to seek advice from their GP or a mental health professional.

Causes of anxiety in seniors

It’s important to note that anxiety doesn’t always have a specific trigger. In fact, many who are struggling with anxiety may not even realise until the problem reaches a stage that is difficult to handle. That said, commonly, anxiety begins due to situational or environmental factors and for older ones, dealing with changes can be too much of a daunting task.

Some common triggers of anxiety in seniors includes:

  • Domestic issues and arguments
  • The loss of a loved one
  • Loss of independence
  • Immobility
  • Isolation
  • Financial insecurity
  • Chronic illness or pain
  • Dementia
  • Reduction in sensory awareness
  • Grief

Getting help for older adults

Once a mental health illness sets in, it can be hard for it to go away on its own. However, you can do several things that will help support your loved one. For example, be a good listener. Spend time engaging with them and where possible, encourage them to associate with other elderly ones socially. In addition, you can also help them by taking them to their healthcare appointments, such as psychology visits. A mental health professional can help guide them through their difficult period in life by teaching them coping methods and techniques.

Mental well-being is the right of every person – regardless of their age. If you notice an older one experiencing mental health issues, approach them to offer the support they need. If you have an elderly loved one who is struggling, Positive Mind Works has an experienced team of psychologists who are ready to support seniors and provide the help they need to cope with their concerns. Call 1800 327 477 to speak to our friendly team or click here to book. 

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