As many as one in five older adults experience mental health issues, the most common of which are anxiety or mood disorders (such as depression). In most cases, these mental health issues respond well to treatment. Sadly, far too often, older adults do not seek or receive the help they need. However, new businesses such as WellQor specialize in the virtual treatment of these needs. Left undiagnosed and untreated, mental health illnesses have severe implications for older adults and their loved ones. This is why it’s essential to understand the signs.
Older adults tend to experience strings of losses that can have significant effects on sustained mental health. Frequently, loved ones will struggle to come to terms with physical decline, which entails losing the ability to perform tasks and activities that were once taken for granted. The loss of stamina, physical looks, and mobility becomes both physically and mentally exhausting to the average parent. Those who struggle to cope can benefit from the support of family, peers, and professionals.
Sometimes, our loved ones will have to witness their peers pass away with age and illness. This can be a seemingly never-ending parade of grief. Open and honest communication is vital as they navigate these milestones to be aware of mental illness beyond healthy grieving. Deep, lingering sadness, significant changes in behavior, agitation, and sleep loss may signal clinical depression. In this case, we may want to seek professional help for our loved ones and their mental health needs.
Good mental health contributes significantly to increased physical well-being. Untreated mental health disorders in older adults can lead to diminished functioning, substance abuse, poor quality of life, and increased mortality. Research shows mental illness can slow healing from physical ailments. With this in mind, it’s good to remember that mental and physical health are intrinsically linked and that attention to mental health is essential for lasting physical health.
Our older loved ones have things in their lives that bring them enjoyment and fulfillment. Indulgence in those activities is vital for a grounded sense of self. Reading, walking, and socializing are just a few of the events that many individuals enjoy at any age. Exercising one’s mind, body and maintaining social connections are good for one’s mental health.
While some adults manage chronic mental illness throughout their lives, mental health problems can also appear late in life. Sometimes mental health deteriorates in response to a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, or even some medications. Older adults without a history of substance abuse may abuse medications, alcohol, or drugs. As much as 20% percent of older adults battle mental health disorders.
Older adults have the highest suicide rate in the country. Adults ages 85 and older have the highest suicide rate, and those ages 75 to 84 have the second highest. Besides, older adult suicide attempts are more lethal. For those 65 and older, there is one suicide for every four attempts compared to one suicide for every 20 attempts for all other age groups. Seventy-five percent of those who committed suicide visited a primary care physician within a month of their suicide.
As our loved ones age, they often face many of the same difficulties they met earlier in life, amplified because of the loss of social support (friends and family). Eighty percent of older adults recover from depression after receiving treatment from a trained professional.
Researchers estimate that up to 63 percent of older adults with mental disorders do not receive the services they need. Senior care, especially mental healthcare, is one of the most ignored issues in America. Society often pushes seniors into the margins, and few healthcare professionals deal with specializations, such as senior psychology, that can help loved ones. Hopefully, older adults will soon receive more attention from the medical community.
If older adults take several medications for various illnesses, drug interactions and side effects can affect mood and behavior.
Depression is sometimes misdiagnosed as dementia — a decline in mental ability caused by Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, a brain tumor, or other illnesses. People with dementia have problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory and language.
An older adult with depression may exhibit dementia-like symptoms even. Some of these symptoms may express themselves as forgetfulness, disorientation, and inattentiveness. This so-called pseudodementia sets in after the person has already shown signs of depression. Someone with depression-related pseudodementia will complain about memory loss, whereas a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia will try to conceal memory loss. It’s also not unusual for a person with dementia to develop depression.
Older Adults Have Unique Mental Health Needs
Changing bodies and chemistry, changes in family and friendships, and changes in living situations all influence mental health and need to be addressed. Sometimes, solving fundamental problems for the older adults in our lives can lower their stress, improve connections, and improve their outlook and mood.
Left untreated, mental illness can affect an individuals’ physical health and quality of life. Ask your loved one if he or she feels sad or anxious. Listen carefully and offer emotional support. Consult with a professional, such as those at WellQor, who are explicitly trained in the needs of older adults.
Support for Loved Ones WITH Mental Health needs
As your loved one’s mental health may change, we are here to offer support and solutions to assist you and your parent to keep them safe so they can maintain their independence at home as long as possible.
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