They’re common concerns in older years: fatigue, sleeping problems, lack of appetite. And often, they’re written off as just that. Yet for as many as 8 million seniors over age 65, these symptoms are indicative of something more than normal aging – they’re signs of mental illness. And only a small percentage are receiving the available treatment that could drastically improve their overall quality of life.
Mental illness is often overlooked in seniors, for a variety of reasons. For some, there’s a stigma attached to admitting to and seeking help for mental and emotional concerns. For others, the assumption is that the common symptoms of mental illness and aging go hand in hand and should simply be accepted. And in some cases, mental illness indicators mimic medication side effects.
Regardless, it’s crucial for family members to seek out medical care if they notice any of the following types of behaviors in their senior loved ones:
- Personality or mood changes
- Reduced interest in formerly enjoyed activities
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Changes in eating patterns
- Issues with concentration and memory
Unfortunately, as few as 7 percent of seniors age 65 and over who likely have some form of mental illness are actually receiving treatment, according to a study by the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Dr. Susan W. Lehmann, clinical director of the division of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry and director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Day Hospital at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine clarifies, “Indeed, compared with younger adults and middle-aged adults, adults over age 65 were much less likely to be asked by their primary care physician if they felt tense or anxious and were much less likely to be referred by their primary care physician for mental health specialty care.”
The good news is, there are effective treatment options for mental illness in older adults. The first step is to talk with the senior’s primary care physician, who can recommend the best medication and/or therapeutic options to consider. North River Home Care can also help by escorting the senior to medical appointments and counseling sessions, picking up prescriptions and providing medication reminders, and serving as a caring companion to share in conversations and to pick up on any changes that may indicate the need for further assistance. Call us at 781.659.1366 to learn more.