Mental Health Awareness for Seniors
Mental health is a state of well-being in which we are able to use our minds well. It is about feeling good and functioning effectively. It affects how we think, feel and act.
Mental illness is a health condition involving changes in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress or impaired functioning. It can affect people of any age, but it is more common among older adults than younger adults. The most common mental health problems for seniors are depression, anxiety disorders, and dementia.
Mental health is a significant part of individual well-being yet senior men and women may not always feel comfortable discussing it. It should be something all seniors should reflect on, not just to enjoy their golden years but to ensure they can do so.
Many mental health conditions affect seniors, especially when they live on their own. They often struggle with social isolation and feel like they’re no longer needed. These issues can cause them to feel overwhelmed and helpless, which is why family members need to learn how to identify signs of depression and anxiety. Awareness is key to understanding mental illness.
Additionally, Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time for senior care providers to remind clients about the significance of self-care and ask if they are suffering from any other mental health issues.
FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
Mental health problems can occur at any time in life for a variety of reasons.
- An aging population may face life stressors such as a significant ongoing loss of capabilities and functional ability.
Older adults, for instance, may suffer from reduced mobility, frailty, chronic pain, or other health problems, for which long-term care might be required.
- Bereavement, or the loss of socioeconomic status after seniors’ retirement.
Older adults suffering from these stressors may become isolated, lonely, or suffer psychological distress, resulting in the need for long-term care.
- Physical and mental health are interconnected.
Those with physical conditions such as heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression than those who are healthy. Furthermore, untreated depression can adversely affect the outcome of heart disease in older people.
- Seniors are also susceptible to elder abuse – such as verbal, physical, psychological, sexual, and financial abuse, neglect, abandonment, and humiliation.
In the past year, approximately one out of six people over 60 years of age experienced some form of abuse in their community. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of elder abuse has increased. Abuse of the elderly can cause serious physical injuries and long-term psychological effects.
TREATMENT AND CARE
Providers and societies must be prepared to meet the specific needs of older populations, including:
- Training health professionals in providing care to the elderly
- Prevention and management of aging-associated chronic diseases, including mental, neurological, and substance-related disorders
- Developing sustainable policies for long-term and palliative care
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Mood, energy level, or appetite changes
- No motivation or difficulty feeling positive emotions
- Sleep changes, such as insomnia or too much sleep
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, feeling restless, or feeling on edge
- An increase in worry or stress
- Angry, irritable, or aggressive behavior
- Constant headaches, digestive problems, or pain
- Dependence on alcohol or drugs
- Hopelessness or sadness
- Having thoughts about death or suicide
- Taking part in high-risk activities
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and social activities
- Compulsive behavior or obsessive thinking
- Thoughts or behaviors affecting friends, family, or social life
- Isolation from society
- Unusual thoughts or behaviors that concern others
Regardless of age, mental health problems can affect anyone. But the risk of mental health problems increases with age. People over 65 are more likely to experience depression, dementia, and other forms of mental illness than younger adults. That’s why it’s also critical for older people to learn about the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how to get help.
When you or a loved one is experiencing mental health issues, it can be challenging to know where to turn for help. But there are many resources available to support you during this challenging time. You may also ask your family doctor for help, or visit the NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses page. Communicating well with your health care provider can improve your care and allow you to make healthy choices together.