Watching an older loved one suffer from a mental disorder can be heartbreaking. It’s not uncommon to feel a sense of helplessness, but as family members, you can help prevent the negative effects of anxiety and other mental disorders in the elderly by encouraging them to seek a medical diagnosis. By understanding the signs and symptoms of mental disorders, you can help your elderly loved with mental health issues live a better life.
When mental disorders go undiagnosed in the elderly, they can have a negative impact on other health issues. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), when a senior has untreated depression as well as heart disease, the depression can negatively affect the outcome of the disease. This can include a senior patient not following doctor’s orders.
Senior Citizen Mental Health Concern #1 – Anxiety Disorder
When a senior has anxiety, it typically manifests as fear or worry that is out of proportion to the current situation. According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, 10% to 20% of all older adults are affected by anxiety, but not all are diagnosed. Sometimes, the anxiety is not even attached to a specific event, and it is simply a feeling of general dread as if something bad is going to happen.
Anxiety can be caused by a number of factors. These can include a trauma of some sort, including the death of a loved one, drug abuse, or a family history of anxiety.
Anxiety can be treated with medication, so a visit to the doctor is a must. There is no reason for a senior to suffer with a mental health issue such as anxiety unnecessarily. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one in several ways by:
- Helping to reduce stress in your loved one’s life
- Teaching / learning coping skills
- Participating in support groups
Elder Mental Health Concern #2 – Depression and Suicide
Studies show that up to 20% of senior adults suffer from depression. As noted by the American Psychological Association (APA) , for older adults, depression has even more serious side effects than for younger individuals as even mild depression lowers a person’s immunity, and because older adults typically deal with more chronic illnesses, this can have a devastating effect.
In addition, depression is a major factor in suicide and suicide attempts. That is why it is so important to watch for any signs of depression in your older loved ones. Do not assume that depression is normal or part of being old or ill. It can be treated and should be.
In fact, many suicides in older adults might be preventable. Studies show that 20% of individuals that commit suicide see their doctor the day that they pass on with 40% seeing their doctor in the same week, and 70% in the same month. You can help your loved one recognize the signs of depression. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping more than normal
- Lack of interest in activities they normally enjoy
Elderly mental health is a concern for everyone from their family members to their doctors. Often doctors overlook the signs because older adults don’t want to admit that they are depressed which is why it is so important for family members to be on the look out for the signs as well. By doing so you could save a life of someone close to you.
How do you cope with your loved one’s mental help? Tell us in the comments below.