Freelance Contribution by Jessica Walter

 

Up to 20% of all American adults aged 55 or older experience a mental health concern. Despite these statistics, most seniors in the USA do not receive the necessary mental health care, with less than 3% having seen a medical or mental health practitioner. Reasons for failing to seek professional assistance include a lack of funding, a denial of the problems at hand and the stigma surrounding mental illness.

As we grow older we are faced with an increasing number of health problems which affects both our physical and mental wellbeing. There are numerous mental health concerns that are prevalent amongst the elderly and that should be addressed with the utmost of compassion and care.  

Of these conditions, depression and dementia are the most common while others such as psychosis and schizophrenia also require regular intervention and treatment.  A closer look at some of these can provide both the elderly and their caretakers with valuable insight into these conditions, resulting in greater understanding and care.

Depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as many of 5% of the beloved elderly population in America is affected by depression. It is very unfortunate that many cases of depression remain untreated due to misdiagnosis that stem from the depression mimicking normal age-related problems. It is in our human nature to be reluctant to talk about our feelings, making a much-needed diagnosis even harder. For those seniors that live independently it becomes even harder to reach out due to their isolation. Depression manifests itself in various ways such as insomnia, a loss of energy and appetite, overwhelming feelings of guilt and even suicidal thoughts. While anti-depressants are commonly used to treat the condition and have a reasonable success rate, psychotherapy is also often prescribed. Love and support from family and friends can also be of significant help in treating depression in the elderly.

Dementia

Dementia is a very general term that refers to a decline in mental ability so severe that it interferes with the senior’s daily life. The most common type of dementia among seniors is Alzheimer’s which accounts for between 60% and 80% of all cases. Severe memory loss on a daily basis may be a sign of impending dementia although professional medical assistance is needed for an accurate diagnosis. As a caretaker to an elderly person it is important to look out for the often subtle signs that may point to the early stage of dementia. These signs include slight vocal and focus impairments as well as recurring episodes of apathy and listlessness.

Mental health issues are not always easy to discuss, especially for seniors who do not want to burden anyone with their problems, making it imperative for caretakers and family members to be alert to the various signs and symptoms pointing to a decline in mental health. As bitter a pill as it may be t swallow it is vitally important to remember that most conditions can be addressed fairly easily, ensuring a good quality life for the senior involved.

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