World Day of Older Persons: Signs of Mental Illness in Older People

Whether you are young or old, you can suffer from mental illness. Older people may ignore it, thinking that forgetting certain things or sometimes feeling down is part and parcel of aging. But that’s not always true. According to data from the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of people aged 60 and over suffer from a mental or other disorder. According to the WHO, approximately 3.8% of the elderly population suffers from anxiety disorders. So, on the occasion of the World Day of Older Persons, celebrated every year on August 21, let’s review the warning signs of mental illness in older people.

Signs indicating mental illness in the elderly

There are several ways to find out if older people in your family have a mental illness.

Mental illness in the elderly is quite common. Image provided by: Shutterstock

1. Social isolation

When there is a withdrawal people become less communicative or find it difficult to have conversations, which can be a sign of a mental health issue, says Dr. Dimple Mehta, counseling psychologist and craniosacral therapist , Artemis Hospitals, Gurugram.

2. Emotional distress

Emotional well-being and distress depend primarily on social relationships. Older people who begin to avoid social situations easily become upset, restless, or irritable.

3. Loss of interest in self-care

Self-care is very important and should not be neglected even as people age. So, when they start neglecting their personal grooming, hygiene, and self-care, it may indicate that there is a problem.

4. Weight change

There can be sudden, unintentional weight loss due to changes in appetite, activity level, constant low mood, loneliness, grief and social isolation, the expert tells Health Shots.

5. Changes in sleep habits

They might have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. In some cases, older people may suffer from excessive sleepiness.

happy old person
You need to keep elders involved in decision-making. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Anxiety

Parents will always worry about their children or grandchildren. But in case of anxiety, it reaches another level. They will always worry about their safety, well-being, or daily activities, even if they don’t need to.

7. Memory Complaints

Difficulty remembering names, forgetting or having difficulty following a conversation, or difficulty remembering recent conversations are all warning signs of mental illness.

Common mental health issues in older adults

While anxiety disorders in older adults are common, there are other mental health issues as well. Here are a few:

1. Depression

Depression can cause great suffering and lead to problems functioning in daily life, explains the expert at Health Shots. Older people with depression lose interest in or enjoyment of activities. Depressed older people may have a loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss and poor nutrition.

2. Dementia

In dementia, there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform daily activities. It mainly affects the elderly, but it is not considered a normal part of aging, says the expert. According to the WHO, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It can contribute to 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases.

Tips for preventing mental illness in older adults

You can help prevent mental illness in older family members. Here’s what to do:

• Provide resources that meet their needs. These can be gardens, balconies or religious sites.
• Ensure their safety. When older people feel loved and cared for, they also feel a sense of security.
• Engage them with their grandchildren, spend quality time with them, involve them in decision-making to make them feel that their opinions matter.
• Encourage them to openly express their needs and concerns. Help them participate in recreational activities.
• Understand their issues and feelings and be sure to actively listen to them so they can express themselves fully.
• Encourage them to maintain a balanced diet, exercise and take them to regular health check-ups.

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