Is it Mental Illness or Aging?
As our loved ones age, it's only a matter of time before they experience changes in their health, but many people confuse the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems for the aging process as a whole. Regular forgetfulness can be normal, however; cognitive impairment or persistent memory loss is something to take much more seriously. The same goes for extreme anxiety, which is one of the more prevalent mental health problems in the elderly community.
Around 20 percent of adults aged 55 and older experience some sort of mental health concern, but one in three of these seniors will not seek professional help. In 2006, the CDC found that 5 percent of seniors (65 and older) reported a current struggle with depression, and 10.5 percent reported being diagnosed depressed at some point in their lives. The key to understanding the mental health needs of your older loved ones is to recognize that physical health and mental health are often connected.
Mental illness is a health term used for a group of mental conditions that cause severe disturbances in thinking, behavior, feeling, and relating. With knowledge and vigilance, family caregivers can stay aware of the mental and emotional health of their elderly loved ones, as well as their physical health. To help you decipher some of the key differences in mental illness and simply aging, here are 5 signs:
1. Sadly, forgetfulness is a part of growing old, however; extreme short term memory loss or hallucinations is a sign of dementia, which is the most common mental illness among the elderly.
2. It is normal to worry about death, family members, or financial pressures, but that is not the same as anxiety. Anxiety is extreme and constant worry or fear, which can include physical symptoms such as chest pain, a racing heart, and sleepless nights.
3. As we age we tend to fall into patterns, but obsessive compulsive disorder is much more drastic than getting up to lock the door for a second time. OCD can mean going into lock down for stepping on a cracked tile, or washing your hands obsessively until it begins damaging your skin.
4. Stress is a normal part of life, but if stress causes disassociation or depersonalization, you may be suffering from acute stress disorder due to a recent trauma or shock.
5. Lastly, along with aging comes aging friends/family who begin dying around us. There is bound to be periods of sadness throughout life, but it shouldn't be causing insomnia, loss of appetite, social withdrawal, or a fixation on death. All of these symptoms can point to clinical depression.
If a loved one has suddenly had a change in personality, seems to have a loss in intellect or is regularly confused and forgetful, take a closer look and make sure they are not suffering from a mental illness. There are so many people willing to help, such as your family doctor, a counselor or psychologist, and caregivers. It is important not to stand by and suffer alone, because with combined efforts of family and professionals, we can help ward of mental illness in our older loved ones and make sure they stay on track to the healthiest aging process possible.
If you are finding it difficult to juggle it all....work, family, errands and other demands, consult Atlanta's most trusted source for quality Home Care, Easy Living Services, Inc. We offer flexible care plans designed to guarantee personal care and attention to your loved one at home. Call us to learn more, 770-442-8664