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Recognizing Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Elderly

Recognizing mental health issues in the elderly is not always easy. Undiagnosed mental illness can complicate the treatment of many physical health conditions, including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. 

The symptoms of mental illness in the elderly can have a devastating impact, facilitating a deterioration in wellness, happiness, and overall health. Read on to learn what those symptoms are, how to recognize mental health issues, and what elderly mental health services can help.

How to Recognize Mental Health Issues

Mental illness often appears as an inability to cope with ordinary demands and routines on a daily basis. Identifying potential symptoms of mental illness in the elderly is the first step to getting treatment. Recognizing mental health issues doesn’t require any special education or training, nor an extended time commitment from caregivers. 

The right elderly mental health services, such as in-home memory care, companion care, and other elderly care options can provide treatment that makes a significant positive impact on a person’s quality of life.

Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Elderly

Being familiar with the following symptoms of mental illness helps ensure your loved one receives proper elderly mental health services and lives a more rewarding life. These symptoms include:

  • Unusual behaviors or thinking regarding other people.
  • Compulsive behavior or obsessive thinking.
  • Frequent forgetfulness, memory loss, or distorted memories.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Feeling restless.
  • Noticeable changes in energy levels, appetite, or mood.
  • Engaging in high-risk activities.
  • Ongoing headaches, pain, or digestive issues.
  • Increased worry, sadness, or feelings of hopelessness.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Changes in personal hygiene care.
  • Behavior or thoughts that interfere with social life, work, family, or friends.
  • Anger, aggression, or irritability.
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.

Although this is a long list of symptoms to watch for, it’s vital that caregivers educate themselves so they can recognize these signs.

What Are the Five Warning Signs of Mental Illness?

While many people may not remember every symptom mentioned above, there are five key warning signs that, above all others, caregivers should keep in mind when they want to recognize mental health issues in the elderly:

  1. Physical pain.
  2. Chronic fatigue.
  3. Perfectionism.
  4. Lack of emotion.
  5. Avoidance.

Symptoms of mental illness in the elderly can sometimes be mistaken for frailty and a natural part of old age. A mental illness often makes it more difficult for the elderly to take care of themselves and seek medical treatment when needed — it shouldn’t be disregarded as an inevitable result of life changes, disability, or chronic illness.

What Mental Health Issues Are Most Common in the Elderly?

Knowing what mental health issues are most common in the elderly can help caregivers stay vigilant about recognizing symptoms. An in-home assessment can be useful as well. Here are four of the most common mental health issues in the elderly.

1. Depression

Depression is the most common mental illness in the elderly, and it affects more than 6 million Americans over the age of 65. Depression is associated with distress and can lead to impairments in social, mental, and physical function.

2. Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a close second. As many as 5 million seniors live with this diagnosis. This condition can significantly impair a person’s ability to function socially, physically, and mentally. 

3. Anxiety

A third prevalent mental illness in the elderly is a general anxiety disorder, which often goes hand-in-hand with depression. In fact, over 50% of older adults who have a diagnosis of depression also meet the criteria for anxiety.

4. Frequent Mental Distress (FMD)

Another common condition that produces symptoms of mental illness in the elderly is frequent mental distress (FMD). According to the CDC, FMD can interfere with principal life activities, including the ability to sustain personal relationships, eat well, and keep up with the demands of a household. It can also impact an individual’s physical health.

What Elderly Mental Health Services Are Available?

Receiving the right care and support needed to treat mental illness as soon as possible is critical. Finding a compassionate professional to work with helps make the road to mental stability a smooth one.If you or someone you know is in need of in-home care services, Advanced Nursing + Home Support is here to help. We provide superior care by skilled providers who truly care about the wellness of others. Contact us today to learn more!

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