Senior Care: Identifying Symptoms of Mental Disorders

When it comes to dealing with emotional health, seniors are at a disadvantage. Over 20% of adults age 60+ suffer from mental or neurological disorders, the most common of which are dementia and depression.  
While some seniors may have been dealing with mental health issues for years, many will not develop these problems until later in life. Because the stigma surrounding mental illness makes people reluctant to seek help, the issues may go unidentified. This is dangerous, not only because of the risk of suicide but because mental and physical health are inextricably linked. Older adults with longstanding physical health conditions are more likely to become depressed, and untreated depression can negatively affect the outcome of a physical disease.
In addition to more common causes for depression, such as a drop in finances or experiencing a loss, the inability to live independently (due to limited mobility, chronic pain, or other physical or mental problems) can have a big impact. The isolation, loss of independence, loneliness and psychological distress may result in older adults without a prior history of substance abuse turning to medications, alcohol, or drugs.
The holidays are an opportunity to check in with aging relatives, to see how they are doing and to provide support, but it can also be a time when depression may be worse.  
Symptoms to be aware of include:
1. Sad or depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks;
2. Consistent worries about issues such as money, family, and health;
3. Social withdrawal; loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable;
4. Unexplained fatigue, energy loss, or sleep changes;
5. Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making;
6. Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in weight;
7. Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems;
8. Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide;
9. Physical problems that can’t otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.;
10. Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard;
11. Trouble handling finances or working with numbers; and
12. Self-medicating and/or taking more medication than prescribed.
Don’t hesitate to consult their primary care provider if your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms above. You may also want to consult a counselor or psychologist, particularly one who specializes in geriatric care, as the symptoms above can be indicators of a number of potentially serious concerns, including, but not limited to elder abuse, dementia, and depression.
As important as it is to be aware of the need for a healthcare professional, it is just as crucial to take action and to engage your loved one in activities that promote both physical and mental health (keeping seniors connected). Staying physically healthy, socially active, and mentally engaged as you age are keys to boosting senior mental health. By combining the skills and efforts of families and professionals, we can help our older loved ones and support them in aging healthily.
Other Mental Health Resources:
Rebecca Schein Gideon Y. Schein,
Rebecca R. Eddy
Gideon Y. Schein


Eddy & Schein

212. 987.1427


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