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8 Symptoms of Mental Illness

Normal signs of aging can mask symptoms of mental illness in the elderly. Learn about these 8 symptoms to spot mental illness among seniors.

About 58% of people over age 65 think that depression is a normal part of aging. Myths like this often prevent seniors from having mental illnesses identified and treated. (Mental Health America Survey)

According to the CDC (cdc.gov), an estimated 20% of people over the age of 55 have a mental health issue. Many mental illnesses can significantly affect physical and social well-being. Mental illnesses can, however, be hard to distinguish from regular signs of aging.

8 Common Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Aging

Signs of mental illness in the aging may be expressed verbally in discussion. Often, though, the elderly exhibit their symptoms behaviorally or physically instead. Look for these 8 symptoms in the elderly to spot mental illness during the aging process.

 

1. UNUSUAL AVOIDANCES

For seniors, avoiding extreme heat or exhausting activities makes sense. However, avoiding eye contact, using the bathroom, touching certain objects, or participating in events is atypical. Watch for extreme or unusual avoidances.

 

2. DIFFICULTY MAKING BASIC DECISIONS

Decision-making is affected by memory, emotions, and judgement processes. When seniors struggle to make basic decisions or change their minds frequently the issue may be caused by mental illness.

 

3. UNEXPLAINED STOMACH DISTRESS

A person’s gut reveal much about their physiological state. If a senior has unexplained digestive problems, they may be experiencing feelings or thoughts due to mental illness that are causing distress.

 

4. AGITATION OR MOODINESS

Irritability among seniors may occur as a result of physical conditions like chronic pain. However, agitation and moodiness that is disassociated from a reasonable cause can indicate a mental health problem.

 

5. CHANGE IN APPETITE OR SLEEPING PATTERNS

Often a change in eating or sleeping habits is the first sign people notice of depression. Pay attention to a senior’s routine and ask questions to understand why their habits may otherwise be changing.

 

6. DISINTEREST WITH FATIGUE

Feeling tired can occur as a result of aging. When tiredness becomes constant or chronic fatigue, it may be a sign of something more. Be on alert for a disinterest in hobbies or decrease in socialization due to fatigue.

 

7. HALLUCINATIONS OR DELUSIONS

If a senior recalls information that doesn’t make sense or that never occurred, they may be experiencing hallucinations or delusions. These symptoms may present as paranoia or as simple confusion.

 

8. SUDDEN CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDE

It is unusual for optimistic seniors to suddenly feel sad all of the time with no cause. Likewise, a senior who participates in a hobby regularly and without explanation stops may be struggling with a mental illness.

(Today’s Geriatric Medicine)

Ted Wolfendale

Administrator at Dial-a-Nurse
Mr. Wolfendale is a graduate of Stetson University, and Stetson University School of Law, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1988. He is admitted to practice in the Middle district of Florida, is an active member of the Florida Health Law section, and Lee County Bar Association.

In 1995 he became Administrator of Dial-a-Nurse nursing agency, the oldest nursing agency in the Southwest Florida succeeding his mother who started the company 37 years ago. He is also President of Nevco, Inc., an educational healthcare training company begun in 1988.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce on various Missions to improve the quality of life around the world by development of supportive healthcare programs. In 2005 he traveled with U.S. officials and addressed the Italian National Government assisting in the creation of Nurse Education mandates for that Country. In 2006 he was invited and spoke with the National Institutes of Continuing Education in Eastern Europe on healthcare education and developmental mandates, and most recently represented the United States at the European Union in Lake Balaton, Hungary in 2011. In 2014 he traveled with the U.S. Department of State to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam in an effort to improve caregiver knowledge and training.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with a number of non-profits in contributing and creating curriculum to improve the quality of life in third-world countries since 2001, and notably created a successful program in Odessa, India that has been modeled in other areas of the world. In his backyard, he has worked with local Goodwill Industries to provide curriculum and training to underserved individuals who have obtained employment as a result of educational training. He was the Congressional appointment to the Governor's purple ribbon task force in 2013, and has worked to educate caregivers in all aspects of Alzheimer's training.
Ted Wolfendale

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