Along with growing older and becoming more inactive, seniors and caretakers must be aware that some seniors may develop mental health issues. Taking care of your body and mental health is necessary as you grow older.
Changes in mood, anxiety and depression are rather common in seniors. The CDC reports that as many as 20% of adults over the age of 50 can have problems with mental health. Each of these mental issues can be treated.
Mental Health Problems
Depression may be a bigger problem because it can lead to suicide. Although often believed, depression is not a normal part of aging. A senior may experience some level of depression because of the loss of friends, health problems, and reduced mobility.
Another mental health problem is bipolar disorder. This disorder shifts between periods of mania (mental highs) and depression. Each period can last for weeks or a couple of days. When present, bipolar disorder can cause problems with sleeping, reckless behavior, and racing thoughts.
The same problems can lead to a dependence on alcohol or drugs. Once this occurs, it may lead to less mobility, a decrease in the quality of life, and an increase in illness. Counseling should be sought once these symptoms appear.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
Some symptoms you might watch for may indicate the presence of mental health problems. Most often, changes in behavior are what often reveal a mental illness. Those symptoms include:
- Changes in appetite with weight gain or loss
- Isolation from social activities
- Changes in personal hygiene
- Depression for more than two weeks
- Changes in sleep
- Substance abuse
- Mood changes.
Dependence Often Increases with Age
The need for increased assistance with daily activities increases with age – although many continue to live without a need for it. About 20% of seniors between 65 and 74 need help with daily living – including eating and bathing. The percentage doubles for men over 85 and 53 percent for women over that age.
Possible Causes of Poor Mental Health in Seniors
Several factors, such as change, may help contribute to poor mental health. Some of the triggers of mental illness may include:
- Chronic pain
- The side effects of medication
- Reduced mobility
- Social isolation
- Elder abuse
Treatment for Mental Health Disorders
Treatment for mental illness is available, but the senior will need to be seen by a counselor for diagnosis. Unfortunately, many primary care physicians will not recognize mental health problems.
Tips for Maintaining Mental Health
As the body tends to grow weaker with age, the mind will, too, but several things will help seniors to retain strong minds. The same things that help keep your body strong will also help keep strong minds.
They include a healthy diet, regular exercise of about 150 minutes per week, avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, frequent social interaction, getting preventive health – including immunizations, and exercising your mind regularly with reading, puzzles, writing, etc. When problems with aging occur – such as a reduction in hearing, vision, or strength, get them treated quickly because they can increase other physical and mental health problems.
Good mental health is necessary for longevity and a better quality of life. Taking care of yourself and having frequent interactions with friends and family can help detect mental health problems and enable you to get early treatment if needed. If you feel depressed or anxious, have obvious mood changes, or have become dependent on drugs or alcohol, consult a doctor for care.