Mental Illness in Older Adults

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Every year in the United States, millions of people are affected by mental illness. People of every age, race, and demographic are affected by mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14 and 75% begins by age 24. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and older suffer from a mental illness.

In recent years the prevalence of social and national media about mental illness and the willingness for people to share their stories has helped to start breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Older generations may not be used to these conversations but it’s important to discuss at every age.

Common Types of Mental Illness

Mental illness in older adults includes depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety affect approximately 7% of the world’s population and anxiety disorders affect 3.8% of the older population. Depression can be overlooked or misdiagnosed because it can occur with other health issues.

Signs of Depression

  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Persistent sad or anxious moods
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Thoughts or death or suicide
  • Changes in appetite or weight changes
  • Aches, pains, headaches, cramps, and digestive issues that don’t have a clear physical cause or that aren’t relieved with treatment

Signs of Anxiety

  • Irrational fear or excessive worrying
  • Avoiding routine activities and/or social situations
  • Physical symptoms include heart racing, shallow breathing, trembling, nausea, and sweating

Risk Factors for Depression and Anxiety

The risk for depression in older people is higher if you:

  • are female
  • have a chronic medical illness such as cancer or heart disease
  • have a disability
  • sleep poorly
  • are lonely or socially isolated
  • have a family history of depression
  • use certain medications
  • misuse alcohol or drugs
  • have experienced a stressful event such as the death of a spouse, divorce or even caregiving

Risk factors for anxiety include:

  • chronic illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, thyroid disease and diabetes
  • a general feeling of poor health
  • side effects of medications including steroids, antidepressants, bronchodilators/inhalers, etc.
  • stressful life events or difficult events in childhood
  • excessive worry or preoccupation with physical health symptoms

Get Help

If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety or other mental illness, talk to a doctor about possible treatment options. Treatment may include medications or therapy or both. Medicare will help cover mental health services and mental illness in older adults. You can use the Medicare QuickCheck to see options.

Services from All Saints Home Care include medication reminders, general housecleaning, meal preparation and personal care—all of which many people who suffer from depression or anxiety may need assistance. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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Wichita, KS 67203
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All Saints Home Care is an equal opportunity employer. All Saints Home Care prohibits discrimination and harassment of any type and affords equal employment opportunities to employees and applicants without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
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