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How to Recognize Signs of Mental Health Issues in the Elderly

By Emma Pizzuti

COHME is a nonprofit home health care agency in New York City that enabling older adults to age at home comfortably with at-home care in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, but it can be more difficult to recognize and address among the elderly. Age can bring a variety of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. Identifying mental health issues in the elderly and seeking professional help when necessary is crucial.

Changes in Mood or Behavior

Changes in mood or behavior are common signs of mental health issues in older adults. A normally outgoing and social senior may become withdrawn and isolated, or a calm and easygoing senior may become irritable and agitated. If a senior is exhibiting unexpected mood changes, it could be a sign of an underlying mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.

Memory Problems

It is common for depression to lead to difficulties with concentration, attention, and focus. Depression affects people's ability to pay attention, organize, and recall information. In addition, they may not be able to recall recent events or details, but can recall events from the past. Memory problems are common in older adults, but they can also indicate cognitive decline. It is important to seek professional help if a senior is having trouble remembering things or completing familiar tasks.

Poor Hygiene

Neglecting personal hygiene is a common sign of depression, especially if the senior has always been meticulous about cleanliness. Depression can make it difficult for older adults to maintain their daily hygiene routine since they may lack motivation, feel tired, and feel helpless. Regular tasks such as bathing, brushing teeth, laundry, and changing clothes may be neglected.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse by seniors may be a response to unresolved emotional pain or mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or loneliness. Physical pain, sleep issues, or other health conditions may lead seniors to use drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse is a sign of a bigger problem, and it is important to seek professional help.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Changes in sleep patterns can be an important indicator of mental health issues in seniors. In seniors, depression or anxiety can cause sleep problems like oversleeping or difficulty sleeping. Hypersomnia, also known as oversleeping, is characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day and difficulty waking up in the morning, and can be caused by depression. Anxiety or other mental health issues may cause insomnia or difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up early. In order to address underlying mental health issues that are causing sleep disturbances, a doctor or mental health provider may need to be consulted. You can also follow these tips.

Loss of Interest in Activities

Loss of interest in activities is a common symptom of depression, which can lead to general apathy and disinterest in things previously enjoyed. Among seniors, this may manifest as a lack of interest in hobbies, sports, or other recreational activities they once enjoyed.

Social Withdrawal

In the elderly, social withdrawal is a common symptom of depression. This can result in seniors withdrawing from their social networks and spending more time alone, as they lose interest in socializing or participating in group activities. Socially isolated elderly individuals may be suffering from depression or anxiety, which makes it difficult for them to connect with others or feel motivated to socialize.

Mental health issues are often difficult to recognize and treat in the elderly population, but it is important to understand the signs and seek professional help when needed. Getting professional help is important if you or someone you love is experiencing changes in mood or behavior, memory problems, poor hygiene, substance abuse, changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal, or difficulty concentrating or confusion. We can promote better mental health and well-being for the elderly by recognizing the signs of mental health issues.

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