Mental Health & Older Adults

Elderly woman lying awake in nursing home bed

It used to be that the twilight years were considered to be a happy and carefree time when one would reap the benefits of a lifetime of work. That is not necessarily the case in the 21st century. A declining economy, a mobile society, and a longer life expectancy have all increased isolation, loneliness and depression for some seniors. Estimates indicate that 20 percent of adults aged 55 or older have experienced some type of mental health concern, but nearly one in three do not receive treatment.

It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness in the elderly and address it quickly. Declining mental health can quickly lead to declining physical health as the senior stops eating well and exercising, and/or relies on alcohol and smoking for relief from depression, anxiety and stress. Most mental health issues can be treated successfully if detected and addressed in their early stages.

Here are some of the most common conditions that seniors face:

Depression: Depression and mood disorders often go undiagnosed and untreated, but this should be guarded against. Five percent of seniors 65 and older report suffering from depression and about 10.5% reported a diagnosis of depression at some point in their lives.

Anxiety: This often accompanies depression. In fact it is reported to be one of the more prevalent mental health problems among the elderly. Anxiety disorders can include from obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Cognitive impairment: The most common mental health issue among the elderly is dementia. Although there is no cure, increasingly there is treatment. An estimated 5 million adults 65 and older currently have Alzheimer’s disease—about 11 percent of seniors. Other types of dementia make those numbers even higher.

Mental illnesses share many of the same signs and symptoms. They can help to detect if the senior needs to be assessed by a professional.

  • Sad or depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks
  • Social withdrawal; loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
  • Unexplained fatigue, energy loss, or sleep changes
  • Confusion, problems with concentration or decision-making
  • Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in weight
  • Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems
  • Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide
  • Physical problems that can’t otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
  • Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard
  • Trouble handling finances or working with numbers\

LivHOME provides support to families trying to find appropriate care for an aging loved one. We learn the needs of the senior and family through a detailed clinical assessment. Then, based on the assessment, the Care Manager develops a personalized Plan of Care. Our professional Geriatric Care Managers, specialists in the field of gerontology (RN, licensed social workers, and/or mental health professionals) coordinate all resources and manage specially trained Caregivers to deliver personalized, at-home services. The important part is not to stand by and suffer alone.

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