Whether you are young or old, you can have a mental illness. Seniors might ignore it, thinking that forgetting a few things or feeling low at times are all a natural part of ageing. But that is not always true. Going by data from the World Health Organization, about 15 percent of people aged 60 and over have some kind of a mental disorder or another. Approximately, 3.8 percent of the older population are affected by anxiety disorders, as per the WHO. So, on World Senior Citizens’ Day, observed annually on August 21, let’s go through the warning signs of mental illness in elderly.
Signs that indicate mental illness in seniors
There are some ways to know if the seniors in your family are having a mental illness.
1. Social isolation
When there is withdrawal from people, they become less communicative or have trouble having conversations, that may be a sign of battling a mental health issue, says Dr Dimple Mehta, Counselling psychologist and Craniosacral Therapist, Artemis Hospitals, Gurugram.
2. Emotional distress
Emotional well-being and distress depend mostly on social relationships. Seniors who begin to avoid social situations get upset, agitated or irritable easily.
3. Loss of interest in self-care
Self-care is very important, and it should not be neglected even when people grow old. So, when they start neglecting personal grooming, hygiene and self-care, it might indicate there is some problem.
4. Change in weight
There might be sudden and 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 sleeping pattern
They might have difficulty in falling or staying asleep. In some cases, the seniors might be experiencing excessive sleepiness.
Parents will always worry about their children or grandchildren. But in case of anxiety, it reaches another level. They will always worry about one’s safety, well-being or daily activities even if they don’t need to.
7. Memory complaints
Difficulty remembering names, forgetfulness or trouble following a conversation or difficulty recalling recent conversations are all warning signs of mental illness.
Common mental health problems in older adults
While anxiety disorders among older adults are common, there are other mental health problems too. Here are some of them:
Depression can cause great suffering and leads to impaired functioning in daily life, the expert tells Health Shots. Older people with depression lose interest or enjoyment in activities. Seniors who are depressed may have decreased appetites, which can lead to weight loss and inadequate nutrition.
In dementia, there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. It mostly affects seniors, but it is not considered to be a normal part of aging, says the expert. As per the WHO, Alzheimer disease happens to be the most common form of dementia. It may contribute to 60 to 70 percent of cases of dementia.
Tips to prevent mental illness in elderly
You can help to prevent mental health illness in senior members of your family. Here’s what to do:
• Provide resources that satisfy their requirements. They can be gardens, balconies or religious sites.
• Ensure their safety. When elderly people feel loved and cared, they feel a sense of security too.
• Engage them with grandchildren, spend quality time with them, involve them in making decisions to make them feel that their opinions matter.
• Encourage them to openly convey their needs and concerns. Help them to participate in recreational activities.
• Understand their problems and feelings, and make sure that you actively listen to them so that they can fully express themselves.
• Encourage them to maintain balanced diet, exercise, and also take them for regular health check-ups.