When it comes to mental health, many people think of young adults struggling with depression or anxiety. However, mental health conditions can affect anyone at any age. Even if you have lived a long and happy life, that does not mean that you are not currently experiencing difficulties. Treating mental health is just as important as any physical health condition.
Though mental illnesses can present symptoms in various ways, there are some general signs you can look for if you think your or your loved one could benefit from mental health treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some signs to look for in seniors could include:
- Mood, energy levels, or appetite changes
- Difficulty experiencing or expressing positive emotions
- Sleeping difficulties
- Feelings of restlessness or inability to concentrate
- Elevated stress levels
- Anger, irritability, or aggressive behavior
- Headaches, digestive difficulties, or other inexplicable pain
- Feeling a desire to drink alcohol or use drugs
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or suicidal
- Obsessive or compulsive tendencies
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with everyday life
- Unusual thoughts or behavior about or in the presence of others
Common Risk Factors for Mental Illnesses in Older Adults
As we age, we, unfortunately, witness many family members, friends, and other loved ones pass away. The death of a spouse, child, or other loved one can lead to grief reactions that are complicated by physical and cognitive changes associated with aging.
Unprocessed grief can manifest itself in the form of depression, anger, anxiety, and/or obsessive thoughts. Learning to process grief and the trauma that may result from it can help you organize any negative thoughts in your brain and prevent them from interfering with your quality of life.
As people grow older, they often experience physical and emotional changes that make them less able to connect with others. Limited mobility, living alone, and more sedentary lifestyles can contribute to feelings of isolation which can exacerbate mental health symptoms. Aging individuals who maintain a busy social life and regularly participate in activities, conversations, and outings can help keep their minds engaged and working on multiple levels.
Cognitive Health Conditions
Cognitive health conditions are another common risk factor for mental illnesses in older adults. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, up to 40% of those who live with Alzheimer’s Disease experience some level of significant depression. Living with a progressive disease can create feelings of depression due to feelings of disorientation, confusion, or a lack of control. These feelings may also be a co-occurring symptom of Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association states that a person with Alzheimer’s may not display symptoms of depression like those who do not experience the condition. The organization advises looking for signs like feelings of apathy and disinterest, social withdrawal and isolation, difficulty concentrating, and impaired thinking.
Chronic Health Conditions
The older you get, the more likely you will experience chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. These conditions can increase your risk for mental illness and make it harder to manage your mental health.
The World Health Organization states that older adults who live with chronic health conditions may be more likely to experience depression. This could be due to feelings of hopelessness or anger over their situation, anxiety or worry over the prognosis of the condition, fear of death, and other similar factors that could impact someone’s emotional wellbeing.
For many, the aging process can be a difficult thing to navigate. One of the most common risk factors for mental illnesses in older adults is nostalgia—longing for enjoyable parts of one’s past, such as higher levels of mobility, greater independence, or life before the onset of a medical condition. While reminiscing on past times can benefit one’s mental health, it may cause those experiencing depression or anxiety to become stuck in the past and unable to move forward into the future.
Mental Health Treatment for Aging Adults
Typically, mental health treatment involves a single or multiple psychotherapy approaches, medication, or a combination of both.
Working with a licensed mental health professional, you can work through your problems in a one-on-one or group-based setting. You will learn new skills and gain tools to help you challenge maladaptive thinking, set new goals, and develop new coping skills. Your counselor will also provide support during difficult times in your life so that you can work toward changing your behavior, thinking, and outlook on life.
Medication can also assist with psychotherapy treatment or be used independently without therapy. Prescribed by a doctor, usually a psychiatrist, it can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, it is important to remember that medication is not considered a cure for mental illness. Follow the instructions on your medication label carefully. A care provider can assist you if you cannot administer your medication yourself.
Integrate Mental Health Treatment as Part of Your Senior Care Plan
The best way to help aging adults is by providing them with a comfortable, friendly environment where they can thrive.
Shaker Place is a nursing home serving people of the New York Capital Region. We offer skilled nursing, long-term care, memory care, and medical care services offering private and semi-private living accommodations with eight country kitchens and plenty of other delicious dining options. We also provide frequent activities for social engagement and are dedicated to providing an accepting and supportive environment for everyone who walks through our doors.
Schedule a tour with us today to learn more about Shaker Place and our commitment to helping aging adults live their best lives possible!