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Don’t Overlook This Common Senior Issue: Mental Illness

doctor comforting senior adult
St. Joseph, MI home care team explores how to recognize mental illness in senior loved ones.

In one’s older years, it is common to be dealing with sleeping problems, fatigue or loss of appetite. And sometimes, they’re written off as just that. Yet for nearly 8 million older adults over age 65, these symptoms are suggestive of something significantly more than normal aging – they’re signs of mental illness. And just a small number are finding the available treatment that may substantially boost their overall total wellbeing. Mental illness can be missed in older adults, for a variety of reasons. For many, there’s a stigma associated with admitting to and looking for help for mental and emotional concerns. For other people, the assumption is usually that the common symptoms of mental illness and aging go hand in hand and must simply be accepted. And sometimes, mental illness indicators mimic medication side effects.

Regardless, it is essential for family relations to seek out medical care when they notice any of the following types of behaviors in their senior loved ones:

  • Anxiety
  • Personality or mood changes
  • Changes in interest in formerly enjoyed activities
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Alterations in eating patterns
  • Troubles with concentration and memory
  • Depression

Regrettably, as few as 7 percent of older adults age 65 and over who probably have some kind of mental illness are actually receiving treatment, based on a report by the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Dr. Susan W. Lehmann, clinical director of the division of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry and director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Day Hospital at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine clarifies, “Indeed, compared with younger adults and middle-aged adults, adults over age 65 were much less likely to be asked by their primary care physician if they felt tense or anxious and were much less likely to be referred by their primary care physician for mental health specialty care.”

Fortunately, you will find effective treatment options for mental illness in older adults. Step one is to talk to the senior’s primary care doctor, who is able to recommend the best medication and/or therapeutic choices to consider. Our experts at Home Sweet Home in Kalamazoo, MI and other nearby Michigan communities, will also help by escorting the senior to medical appointments and counseling visits, picking up prescription medications and providing reminders, and serving as a caring companion to share in conversations and also to pick up on any changes that may indicate the necessity for further assistance. Contact our caregiving team to find out more or visit our locations page to see the areas we serve.

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