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Psychosis in Elderly Adults: Causes, Signs, Treatment

In simple terms, psychosis is when a person misinterprets reality. These types of conditions involve perceptions or interpretations of your environment which are impaired, like false beliefs, disorganized speech, hallucinations, and other irrational behavior.

While some forms of psychosis develop from birth, many forms of psychosis can be caused, especially among the elderly. But understanding more about the causes, signs, and treatment can give you the opportunity to address these problems before they have the opportunity to become worse.

What causes psychosis in the elderly?

Decades of research have shown the elderly are at considerably elevated risk for psychotic symptoms, including mood disorders, delirium, substance abuse, and several related conditions. There are many reasons why.

For starters, a wide range of preexisting conditions can dispose someone to develop a psychotic disorder. Medical conditions with behavioral disturbances, like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, or Huntington’s, can contribute to developing psychotic symptoms. So can relatively common health problems, like sleep deprivation or a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Another common way the elderly develop these kinds of issues is drug-induced psychosis, which is the result of multiple medications interacting with each other. In fact, there are dozens of drugs are associated with psychotic symptoms in the elderly, including a range of stimulants, anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, antihistamines, and ironically even some antipsychotics.

Postoperative Psychosis Elderly Concerns

Post-op delirium is also a very common complication for older adults who undergo surgery. Post-op psychosis elderly patients typically experience symptoms within weeks after surgery, occasionally within hours. If left unchecked, postoperative psychosis elderly experiences can be quite dangerous, contributing to both health decline and increased risk of hospitalization.

Since there’s no medication to treat post-op delirium, prevention is critical. Fortunately, post-op delirium can often be prevented or managed. The American Geriatrics Society Clinical Guideline for Post-Operative Delirium suggests a few simple steps, including: Walking several times a day, getting adequate hydration and rest, ensuring hearing aids and glasses are available, taking steps to avoid infection after surgery

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Psychosis in Elderly & Dementia

Signs of psychosis in elderly persons include agitation, hallucination, slurred speech, mood swings, uncooperative behavior, agitation, and a handful of other symptoms that are easily mistaken for dementia. Consequently, dementia psychosis elderly patients are at greater risk of having their delirium overlooked. That’s part of the reason why it’s a good idea to regularly monitor and journal those experiences, allowing physicians a better understanding of changes in behavior and how rapidly they occur.

Treating Psychosis in the Elderly

Elderly psychosis treatment needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, the primary treatment for psychosis in the elderly is antipsychotic medications, which can help manage hallucinations and agitation. It’s also often important to supplement medications with environmental support, including both behavioral and social interventions. Many of the benefits of home care for those with dementia apply in these cases.

Psychosis in Elderly Patients

Watching a loved one develop psychotic symptoms can be unnerving. With the right care & management, even these kinds of symptoms can be managed or eliminated.