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5 Early Signs of Mental Illness to watch for in Older Adults

5 Early Signs of Mental Illness to watch for in Older Adults

Life’s journey can be likened to a beautiful song, evolving and changing as we age. Just as we prioritize our physical health, paying attention to our mental well-being is equally important. Mental health disorders affect about 17.3 million older adults in India, according to research by the Department of Geriatric Mental Health, Medical University in India. This statistic underscores the significance of understanding and monitoring our emotional and mental health, ensuring timely treatment when needed. That’s where Samvedna Care comes in. They’re experts in caring for seniors, ensuring their mental health is as strong as their physical health. 

Mental illness is not a natural part of aging and it can affect people of all ages, causing fluctuations in mood and behavior. Common mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, etc. However, among older adults, cognitive impairment or dementia stands as a prevalent psychiatric disorder. About 5 million adults age 65 and older have both dementia and depression. Mental illness can hamper the quality of life, and it is highly crucial for individuals suffering from mental illnesses to undergo psychiatrist online consultation and mental health counselling online.

What is mental illness?

Mental health and mental illness are two related yet distinct concepts that play vital roles in our well-being. Mental health encompasses our overall emotional and psychological well-being. On the other hand, mental illness refers to specific diagnosable conditions that affect a person’s thoughts, emotions, behavior, and overall functioning. Mental illnesses range from anxiety disorders and depression to neurocognitive disorders.

What are the causes of mental illness in older adults?
The factors causing mental illness in older adults vary from person to person. Some of the most prominent ones include the following:

  1. Genetic: If someone has any relatives suffering from a mental illness, they may inherit genes that increase the risk of mental illness, which can also be triggered due to psychological or physical stress.
  1. Biochemical imbalance: The brain is one of the essential parts of the human body. Although, after a certain age, the functionality of the same decreases due to aging, there may be biochemical changes that result in greater deterioration, thereby increasing the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  1. Chronic Health Conditions: Older adults often have a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. These conditions can significantly impact mental health, leading to feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and depression.
  1. Physical Decline: Physical limitations and a decline in mobility can lead to decreased independence and reduced engagement in activities. This sense of limitation and dependency can contribute to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and depression.
  1. Social Isolation: Older adults may experience social isolation due to factors such as retirement, relocation, or the passing of friends and family. Lack of social interaction and meaningful relationships can increase the risk of depression and anxiety.
  1. Transitions and Life Changes: Major life transitions such as retirement, moving to a new place, or adjusting to an empty nest can disrupt an individual’s sense of purpose and identity, leading to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.
  1. Lack of Mental Stimulation: A lack of mental stimulation, such as engaging in activities that challenge cognitive abilities, can contribute to cognitive decline and increase the risk of mental health issues.
  1. Caregiver Stress: Older adults who are caregivers for spouses or family members may experience high levels of stress, which can negatively affect their own mental health.
  1. Sleep Disturbances: Sleep problems are common in older adults and can significantly impact mood, cognitive function, and overall mental health.

What are the signs of mental illness in older adults?
Some of the signs of mental illness to watch for in older adults include the following:

  1. Trouble remembering things
    One of the earliest signs of mental illness in older adults is problems remembering things. Memory issues are very common as people start aging. However, this can often be a hint of something serious. Loss of memory or the habit of frequently forgetting things can signify Alzheimer’s or Dementia. This is just the early stage. Some of the common signs of memory issues in individuals include
  • Constantly asking for the same information
  • Keeping belongings somewhere and forgetting
  • Forgetting important dates
  • Not being able to remember what happened a few minutes ago.
  1. Frequent changes in mood
    Frequently changing mood is a common sign of mental illness. Early signs include being depressed, getting anxious about small things, and having a constant feeling of confusion. Their emotions switch too often.

    While mood changes are a part of the aging process, if it lasts for a long time, it indicates a problem. In the initial weeks, it will be fine. However, the condition may worsen after a certain point with people reflecting an altered personality.
  1. Social withdrawal
    Older adults suffering from mental illness tend to withdraw themselves socially. They don’t want to interact with people and get irritated very easily. Even if they loved being at social parties, now they don’t like visiting those anymore. They tend to lose interest in almost all activities that require them to focus or interact with people.
  1. Changes in personal care
    One of the earliest signs in older adults includes when they stop taking care of themselves or have difficulty following all the personal care routines after a point in time.

    Changes in personal appearance can speak a lot about what the person is going through. They may skip bathing or refrain from having food in many instances. However, this condition will vary from person to person.
  1. Changes in appetite
    Appetite changes are common in mental illness. Older adults may feel less hungry and as a result, appetite may reduce. This can lead to other physical health problems. In some instances, they may also feel like eating too much or binge eating.
  2. Physical Complaints
    Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches, body aches, or gastrointestinal issues can sometimes be linked to underlying mental health struggles.
  3. Lack of Interest
    Losing interest in hobbies, activities, or relationships that were once important might indicate emotional distress or depression.
  4. Expressing Negative Thoughts
    Frequent expressions of hopelessness, helplessness, or thoughts of self-harm should be taken seriously and addressed promptly.
  5. Unusual Behaviors
    Displaying behaviors that are out of character, such as excessive agitation, paranoia, or extreme fear, might be indicative of underlying mental health issues.

In conclusion, if you notice your loved one exhibiting these signs over an extended period, seeking professional help is essential. Samvedna Care, a dedicated senior care service, understands the significance of addressing mental health challenges in older adults. They offer a range of support services, including home care and group programs for those with dementia. Additionally, if you’re considering remote assistance, services like psychiatric online consultation and mental health online counselling can provide valuable guidance.

Remember, understanding the signs of mental illness and seeking timely intervention can significantly enhance the quality of life for older adults, helping them navigate life’s journey with greater resilience and well-being.

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