As people age, they become more susceptible to diseases and disabilities. And so at the onset of the pandemic, it isn’t surprising that experts were quick to highlight how the elderly were the most vulnerable to severe illness from contracting COVID-19. Above all, it’s important to note that seniors’ physical health isn’t the only thing at risk in today’s health crisis.
Loneliness, which can be amplified by social isolation, is an independent risk factor for depression, anxiety disorder, and suicide among seniors. This highlights the need for us to pay more attention to the mental wellbeing of our elderly loved ones. For Instance, here are some of the telltale signs of mental health issues among seniors to watch out for:
Mental health issues are just as physiological as they are psychological. Sometimes these problems can manifest through physical sensations such as nausea, tense muscles, or a knot in the stomach. All these can make it harder for some to feel hunger or fullness, resulting in sudden appetite changes.
Seniors suffering from mental health problems may start binging on certain food items and lose interest in the nutritional value of what they eat — regardless of the diet restrictions they may have. They may also start avoiding eating all together, especially when they find themselves so consumed by stress or anxiety.
More often than not, mentally unwell older adults socially withdraw. They lose interest in the activities that they used to enjoy and slowly ease out of social activities.
One of the reasons behind this is that mood disorders like depression can make it difficult to enjoy or feel fulfilled by most things. Moreover, mental health issues can also be physically and mentally draining, making even the most enjoyable activity taxing.
Contrary to popular belief, memory issues are not a normal part of the aging process. In reality, they can be early warning signs of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia in older people.
While Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, dementia encompasses all the symptoms of cognitive decline. Usually, seniors who have memory problems fail to recognize people they used to know, misplace their belongings often, and repeatedly ask the same question in a short period of time.
Personal care changes
While seniors are often encouraged to try new things that can keep them excited. And unexpected changes in overall appearance and style can be indicative of a mental health crisis. Older individuals battling mental health issues may sometimes find it inexplicably tiring to successfully adhere to their former routines.
They may begin neglecting personal hygiene by forgoing bathing, shaving, and even changing clothes. In other words, worrying personal care changes can also go the other way around. But for instance, seniors dealing with mental health problems may start excessively caring about how they look and/or smell, much more than they typically do.
What can you do?
Knowing the telltale signs is the first step in delivering the best care for elderly loved ones who might be suffering from mental health issues. The next step would be to determine the right treatments and interventions that can make your loved one’s golden years much better.
Aside from seeking help from geriatric psychiatrists, it would also be a good idea to try reaching out to a geriatric nurse. As one of the most crucial careers in the nursing field at the moment, geriatric nurses are equipped to deal with mental health issues among the elderly, and can provide the patient-focused and empathetic expertise your loved one might need.
You can also look for a therapist specializing in elderly mental health in your area, or one who can offer online sessions. Now, more than ever before, seniors require all the attention and care they could possibly get. If you have a senior loved one in your life. What you can do is check in regularly, stay alert, and look into the different ways. For more tips and insightful articles, do check out our blog.
By: Rhiya Jasleen