Today, mental illness is soaring among older adults. Cognitive impairment includes dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Currently close to 5 million adults over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s Disease.
Most often however, many seniors suffer from depression. Currently in the senior population close to 80% who suffer go undiagnosed.
As a senior begins to lose their faculties, loved ones around them, and their world begins to change, anxiety is a common reaction which causes emotional stress. Anxiety disorders encompass a range of issues, from obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding behaviors to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Geriatric Mental Health Professionals can usually be found through referral from a doctor, and seeking one out, if referred, can be covered by Medicare. There are several triggers that cause the escalation of mental illness:
- Physical disability
- Long-term illness (e.g., heart disease or cancer
- Dementia-causing illness (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease)
- Physical illnesses that can affect thought, memory, and emotion (e.g. thyroid or adrenal disease)
- Change of environment, like moving into assisted living
- Illness or loss of a loved one
- Medication interactions
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Poor diet or malnutrition
Seek out a mental professional if you notice a consistency in the below:
- Sad or depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks
- Social withdrawal; loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
- Unexplained fatigue, energy loss, or sleep changes
- Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making
- Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in weight
- Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems
- Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide
- Physical problems that can’t otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
- Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard
- Trouble handling finances or working with numbers
Make sure to seek out a mental health professional who understands and specializes in geriatrics.
Professionals who specialize in Mental Health specialize in the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging.
Mental Health Professionals who are Gerontologists have a masters or doctoral degree in gerontology and/or psychology and can provide in-home counseling services to older adults. There are also support groups for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
A physician specializing in diseases of the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and stroke. A neurologist has a doctorate in medicine and has completed a residency in neurology. Neurologists may or may not have specific experience and training in diseases of the older population.
If your loved one is adjusting to Assisted Living or a major change in their lives, seek out guidance through care conferences with the healthcare professionals on staff. They can help you find the best solution to help the change go easier.