Published on August 30, 2022

Early Signs of Mental Health Issues in the Elderly

According to the World Health Organization, 20% of adults above age sixty worldwide live with one form of mental health disorder. This indicates that the senior population has a risk of developing one mental health issue upon retirement, regardless if they decide to live in a retirement home or not. This is a cause for concern, and the primary issue is to be able to detect or identify the early signs of this psychological condition in yourself or others. Indeed, some signs may look exactly like other conditions related to aging, but there are differences. Here are a few worth noting as you learn to take care of your mental health as you get older.

Confusion, delirium, or disorientation

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often confused with mental health disorders because the characteristics are almost the same. However, the distinguishing factor is that dementia and Alzheimer’s are progressively neurodegenerative conditions. In other words, they are diseases of the brain and its integral functions. These two diseases attack brain cells, and science has shown that, in some cases, they may cause shrinkage in certain areas of the brain tissue. 

Confusion and disorientation are early signs of a possible mental health issue in the elderly. Therefore, if dementia and Alzheimer’s are ruled out after clinical checks, you may be dealing with the onset of an age-related mental health disorder. It may be difficult to distinguish mental health disorders from neurodegenerative conditions as a layperson. This is why the logical thing to do is to seek help from an experienced mental health professional or a geriatric specialist.

Extended depressive moods

According to the Geriatric Society, the prevalence rate of depression among older adults ranges between 5% to 10%. This statistic is from older adults who receive professional help from health institutions and specialists. That means there could be more that goes unreported. Depression is a surprisingly common mental illness, and until you have relevant experience detecting it early, it could be misconstrued for something else.

Extended depressive moods take a toll on the emotional and mental well-being of people who live with the condition. Clinically, depression lasting for more than two weeks is a major cause for concern in the elderly. It is characterized by low moods, lethargy, withdrawal from social life, mood swings, etc. Among the elderly, these signs may be misconstrued as a lack of energy from aging. Until depression is clinically diagnosed, it can be harmful to use medications like antidepressants to treat it.

Sleep changes

Insomnia is pretty common in the elderly. There isn’t much to argue about, with a prevalence rate of almost 50%. It is worth noting that a change in sleep patterns could indicate an underlying mental health problem in the elderly. In this case, though, insomnia and hypersomnia are things to be worried about. The former refers to the inability to sleep at night or day, while the latter is excessive sleep at any time of the day. When either or both is noticed in an elderly person, it would be advisable to seek help from a mental health expert. Doing this early enough decreases the risks of worsening any underlying mental health disorder.

Lastly, a drastic change in personal hygiene routines is another sign to look for. In effect, because of the similarities in these signs, it is best to get a diagnosis from an expert before taking any action.


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