Aging is a natural process that everybody will face sooner or later.
And while the later years are often fulfilling and exciting, they can also bring physical and psychological changes. Scientists have spent many years studying the physical health of the elderly, but the links between aging & mental health are just now starting to be better understood.
This article will cover both physical and psychological illnesses that often affect the elderly, and how to recognize them early.
Mental Illness in the Elderly
Research has shown that there is a powerful link between aging & mental health.
Around twenty percent of elderly Americans report some form of mental illness, and men over the age of 85 have the highest suicide rate of any other age group. Perhaps even more sobering is the fact that psychological changes in elderly patients often go undiagnosed, which is why it’s important for caregivers to recognize signs of mental illness and seek out the appropriate mental health services.
Caregivers may seek a mental deterioration definition to help them understand that changes that are happening in their loved one.
There are several signs of psychological changes in elderly people:
- Difficulty completing daily tasks or chores like getting dressed
- Confusion and trouble making decisions
- A feeling of depression that lasts longer than two weeks
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Loss of short-term memory
- Physical symptoms with no clear cause
- Losing interest in things or withdrawing from friends and family
- Loss of energy or changes in sleep habits (i.e. sleeping more frequently or at different hours than usual)
If your loved one experiences any of these symptoms, there are senior mental health services that can provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Depression and anxiety are major mental illnesses that can have long-lasting consequences if not treated. Many caregivers worry about placing their loved one in a mental institution for depression, but these specialized treatment centers can provide geriatric psychiatric services and behavioral health assistance to improve the patient’s overall quality of life. There are many mental health services available to help walk you through the process of admitting an elderly patient to a mental institution for depression.
There are many things that can cause behavioral health problems or psychological changes in elderly people:
- Alcohol abuse
- A sudden change in living arrangements or living conditions
- Long-term physical illnesses
- A poor diet
- Medications interacting with each other, or a bad response to a single medication
Geriatric psychiatric services specialize in determining the root cause of an elderly person’s mental illness. By working with a mental health professional, you can develop a plan to maintain your parent mental health. Treatment for mental illness in elderly patients often involves medication, therapy and/or in-home care.
Age regression mental illness are closely linked, and many senior citizens experience a regression in which they behave as though they are younger than they really are. This often occurs as a result of physical or chemical changes in the brain. Age regression mental illness is continually being researched by mental age psychology specialists, and treatment options often depend on the underlying cause of the age regression mental illness. A mental health professional trained in mental age psychology can help determine a diagnoses and a treatment plan.
Dysphagia refers to having trouble swallowing. This is a common problem in elderly patients, but is often undiagnosed or attributed to a temporary problem. Furthermore, many caregivers simply address the problem by feeding the patient softer food without considering that the dysphagia may in fact be a symptom of an underlying problem. Dysphagia can cause heartburn, weight loss, and malnutrition so it is important to seek a proper diagnosis. Treatment may involve surgery, exercises to re-engage the throat muscles, and special foods that are easier to swallow.
Many caregivers don’t consider the importance that a regular sleep schedule plays in maintaining overall health and quality of life. Because they are at a higher risk of diseases and conditions that can cause pain and discomfort, senior citizens are especially prone to sleep disturbances. Elderly patients must have a comfortable, safe sleep environment and a regular bedtime routine and sleep schedule. In more severe cases, medication can help seniors maintain a health sleep schedule.
Urinary Tract Infections
Infections in the urinary tract can be particularly difficult to diagnose in elderly patients because they don’t often exhibit the typical symptoms (frequent urination, burning during urination, and pain in the pelvis). Symptoms of a urinary tract infection in elderly patients often include agitation, confusion, and lethargy, which caregivers may mistake for dementia or the inevitable results of aging. Treatment often involves antibiotics and medication to manage pain. Untreated urinary tract infections can cause serious illness in the elderly, so early diagnosis and prompt treatment are critical.
Many caregivers overlook the subtle symptoms caused by dehydration, making it a common problem among elderly patients. Signs of dehydration can include dry skin and a dry mouth and lethargy. Severe dehydration is particularly perilous for elderly patients. Fortunately, dehydration is relatively easy to prevent. It is important to choose a variety of healthy drinks that the patient enjoys and keep them nearby during the day. Elderly patients should also avoid caffeine and alcohol, which often make dehydration worse.
If your loved one is facing an illness that is difficult to diagnose, it is important to seek opinions from multiple physicians. It is best to visit multiple specialists to find the right diagnoses, as sometimes diseases in elderly patients can present with different symptoms than the same disease might cause in younger people. For example, a mental health professional who specializes in senior mental health services can help you understand mental deterioration definition and diagnose a parent mental health concern that might be causing physical symptoms. Illnesses often appear very differently in seniors than they do in younger patients, so it is vital to recognize how some of these conditions appear and how best to treat them.