10 Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Elderly

Mental Illness in the Elderly
Person Holding a Stress Ball

Elderly behavioral problems can stem from a decline in mental health. In seniors, these issues frequently go undiagnosed or unaddressed. In fact, about 20% of U.S. adults age 55 or older experience some type of mental health concern, but nearly one in three of those seniors do not receive treatment.

The statistics on mental illness in seniors are sobering, but with knowledge and vigilance, caregivers can stay aware of the emotional and mental health of their older loved ones and make sure they are properly treated if they are experiencing a problem.

You might not be surprised to read that the most common mental health issue among the elderly is severe cognitive impairment or dementia. An estimated 5 million adults 65 and older currently have Alzheimer’s disease — about 11% of seniors, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Depression and mood disorders are also fairly widespread among older adults, and disturbingly, they often go undiagnosed and untreated. The CDC reports that 5% of seniors 65 and older reported having current depression and about 10.5% reported a diagnosis of depression at some point in their lives.

Often going along with depression, anxiety is also one of the more prevalent mental health problems. Anxiety disorders encompass a range of issues, from hoarding syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder to phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About 7.6% of those over 65 have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, says the CDC.

Assessing Common Areas of Elderly Behavior Problems

A number of issues may arise as a result of elderly behavior problems. Here are 5 areas to assess when visiting your loved ones and some tips on what you can do when elderly loved ones resist help.

Risk Factors for Mental Illness

One of the ongoing problems with diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in seniors is the fact that older adults are more likely to report physical symptoms than psychiatric complaints. However, even the normal emotional and physical stresses that go along with aging can be risk factors for mental illnesses, like anxiety and depression.

The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation lists a number of potential triggers for mental illness in the elderly:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Change of environment, like moving into assisted living
  • Dementia-causing illness (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Illness or loss of a loved one
  • Long-term illness (e.g., cancer or heart disease)
  • Medication interactions
  • Physical disability
  • Physical illnesses that can affect emotion, memory, and thought
  • Poor diet or malnutrition
Image result for dementia

10 Symptoms of Mental Illness

As our loved ones age, it’s natural for some changes to occur. Regular forgetfulness is one thing, however; persistent cognitive or memory loss is another thing and potentially serious.

The same goes for extreme anxiety or long-term depression. Caregivers should keep an eye out for the following warning signs, which could indicate a mental health concern:

  1. Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard.
  2. Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making.
  3. Decrease or increase in appetite; changes in weight.
  4. Depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks.
  5. Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide.
  6. Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems.
  7. Physical problems that can’t otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
  8. Social withdrawal; loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable.
  9. Trouble handling finances or working with numbers.
  10. Unexplained fatigue, energy loss or sleep changes.

Don’t hesitate to seek help if your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms above, urges the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation.

There are professionals out there willing to help, including your family doctor, who is always a good place to start. You could also consult a counselor, geriatric psychiatrist or psychologist. The important part is not to stand by and suffer alone.

With the combined efforts of caregivers, family, friends and mental health professionals, we can help ward off mental illness in our older loved ones and make sure they are on the right track to healthy aging.

Wondering whether it’s Time to Check-in?

If you think you might be seeing signs of elderly behavior problems that could be triggered by mental illness or other health issues, it’s probably time to thoroughly assess how things are going.



Superior Senior Home Care
, the top-rated elder care in San Luis Obispo, offers a complimentary consultation with an advisor to help you determine your loved one’s home care needs. To schedule your free consultation, call 805.430.8767 or contact us online.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-v3.jpg
3 replies
  1. blog3001
    blog3001 says:

    Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project
    in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] but when upkeep has stopped to the point of extreme clutter and unsanitary conditions, it is a clear warning that outside help is required for maintaining health and safety in the home. Other signs include […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply