Recognizing Symptoms of Mental Illness in Seniors
As loved ones age, we can’t help but notice changes in them. They may move a bit more carefully or react a bit more slowly. Often the changes are physical and happen slowly and naturally. But what if we start to notice personality changes? What types of behavioral changes are normal? Which ones might be a sign of something worrisome?
These are the types of questions our clients and their families grapple with every day. It’s difficult to know what changes are a natural byproduct of aging and which might be symptoms of mental illness or dementia. Many people associate the onset of mental illness with adolescence or young adulthood. The exception to this is dementia. Early stages of dementia and early stages of other mental illness may bear similar symptoms, and because of this disparity, non-dementia mental illness may be misdiagnosed in seniors.
There are many risk factors for mental illness that can affect seniors disproportionately. One of those is grief, an unfortunately common experience for many folks as they age. Loss of a spouse or loved one can be a precursor to an episode of depression. Another is chronic illness, pain, or the onset of a physical disability. Other risk factors are medication interactions, poor diet or nutrition and substance abuse.
Enlisting the help of trained experts will help decipher the meaning of the changes you have observed. The following checklist can also help you determine if you’re dealing with a potentially serious behavioral change.
Signs of mental health concerns in seniors:
- Difficulty maintaining concentration – sudden confusion or disorientation
- Rapid appetite or weight changes
- Home or personal appearance in disrepair
- Memory issues, especially short-term memory loss or problems with recent memories
- Ongoing depressed moods lasting two weeks or longer
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness, undue guilt, or suicidal thoughts
- Unexplainable physical pain or fatigue
- Isolation from social groups or loss of interest in friends and hobbies
Older adults are more likely to report new physical symptoms than new psychiatric symptoms, so it’s important for loved ones and caretakers to pay special attention to the mental health of seniors. There is no reason that aging should come with added depression, anxiety, or anguish. Any worrisome behavioral changes should first be discussed with a physician who then may recommend a follow-up with a counselor or geriatric psychiatrist.
At Hillside Terrace in Ann Arbor, we both advocate for our residents and work with their families to make sure any health concerns are addressed. Every senior resident has case management that includes regular, ongoing communication with family members. We offer social activities and interaction to help stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as round-the-clock security, nurse, and staff support. We go above and beyond traditional assisted living in Ann Arbor.
If you’ve noticed changes in your loved one and their already a resident at Hillside Terrace, please don’t hesitate to contact our staff with your concerns. Our residents are family, and our goal is to ensure their needs are addressed quickly and completely. If you have questions about life at Hillside Terrace in Ann Arbor, please give us a call at 734-761-4451.