Mental Illness in Seniors: When It’s More Than “Just Getting Older”

Hospice Nurse visiting an elderly male patient
Mental illness is usually missed in seniors, for a variety of reasons.

They’re common concerns in older years: fatigue, sleeping problems, lack of appetite. And sometimes, they’re written off as exactly that. Yet for as much as 8 million seniors over age 65, these symptoms are suggestive of something more than normal aging – they’re signs of mental illness in seniors. And only a small percentage are finding the available treatment that could greatly boost their overall well being.

Mental illness is usually missed in seniors, for a variety of reasons. For some, there’s a stigma connected with admitting to and trying to find help for mental and emotional concerns. For other individuals, the assumption is usually that the common signs and symptoms of mental illness and aging go together and should simply be accepted. And sometimes, mental illness indicators imitate medication side effects.

However, it’s essential for members of the family to find medical care if they notice the following types of behaviors in their senior loved ones:

  • Anxiety
  • 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
  • Depression

Unfortunately, as few as 7 percent of seniors age 65 and over who probably have some kind of mental illness are in fact receiving treatment, based on 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 thing is, you will find effective treatment options for mental illness in seniors. The first step is to consult with the senior’s primary care doctor for the most effective medication and/or therapeutic options to consider. JFS Care, the leader in home care assistance in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, can also help by escorting the older adult to medical appointments and counseling sessions, picking up prescriptions and providing reminders, and serving as a caring companion to share in conversations and also to pick up on any changes that could indicate the necessity for further senior care assistance. Contact us online or call us at (213) 383-2273 for more information about our in home care assistance Los Angeles area residents trust. Click here to view our full service area