5 Common Mental Health Issues In The Elderly Population

5 Common Mental Health Issues In The Elderly Population
Rose De Souza
June 21, 2021 / 5 mins read

As much as mental health issues have been commonly discussed in association with the younger generation, it’s impact on the senior population should not be ignored.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the world’s population over the age of 60 will nearly double from 12 per cent in 2015 to 22 per cent in 2050. Fifteen per cent of that population, as of December 2017, were already suffering from a mental disorder.

This article discusses 5 mental health issues that are common among elderly adults:

  1. Depression
  2. Bipolar Disorder
  3. Schizophrenia
  4. Anxiety Disorder
  5. Eating Disorder

1. Depression

“Depression is both underdiagnosed and undertreated in primary care settings,” according to WHO. It is also the most common mental disorder among seniors, which can be caused by social isolation or be a symptom of dementia.

That’s when programs like Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support or Companion Care become beneficial to aid the emotional, mental and physical well-being of seniors experiencing this condition.

In a situation when an elder feels alone, it is important to remember that not only is a companion needed but a friend. People can still feel alone even if they are surrounded by others, but even one confidant or source of support can make the difference in how a person feels or sees themselves. Family members or the client themself should be open to choosing who they’d like to work with and must be open to making changes if they don’t feel comfortable with their companion, nurse or caregiver.

2. Bipolar Disorder

Late-onset bipolar can be difficult to diagnose due to its similarities to dementia. Its symptoms can include manic behaviour, delusions, confusion, hyperactivity, psychosis, agitation and cognitive issues like memory problems, loss of judgment and perception.

Since these symptoms are also commonly experienced when someone ages, it makes it a difficult condition to diagnose and can usually be misdiagnosed among the elder population.

3. Schizophrenia

Late-onset schizophrenia also has symptoms similar to dementia like hallucinations and paranoia, and can be experienced by adults after the age of 45.

Schizophrenia, however, can still occur at any age and currently affects 20 million people worldwide. This chronic and severe mental disorder is characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour, according to WHO. Common experiences include hallucinations, hearing voices and having delusions — fixed, false beliefs.

People with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to die early due to physical diseases like cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease or an infection, all of which are preventable.

Schizophrenia is a treatable condition, and that’s the good news, as medicines and psychosocial support have been seen to be effective treatments. Assisted living, supported housing and employment are some effective ways to manage living with schizophrenia.

It is unfortunate that stigma and discrimination are common experiences of people living with this condition. It makes it even more important to find the right care, companion and support for those that are vulnerable to discriminatory behaviour.

4. Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is a very common disorder among the elderly, similar to depression. In fact, according to the CDC, nearly half of older adults with anxiety also suffer from depression.

Although anxiety disorder is linked to multiple factors like sleeping problems, poor health, medical side effects, alcohol abuse, drugs, physical impairments, stress, trauma and more. General anxiety disorder is all about consistent worry or fear which progressively gets worse over time. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Excessive worry
  • Nervousness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Poor sleep quality

These symptoms can affect how a person socializes, works and performs daily activities. It is important for elders to seek home care, medical or emotional support or even therapy, if possible, to prevent the worsening of this condition.

5. Eating Disorder

Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are common eating disorders that can prevail among seniors. Behaviours and psychological issues that worsen these conditions can go undetected, making it even more dangerous. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Weight fluctuations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic dizziness
  • Use of laxatives
  • Slow healing
  • Memory deficits

If family members no longer live in close proximity to an elder or if an elder requires supervision or assistance in their day-to-day life, it is important to give them access to meaningful resources. Home care continues to be a solution families turn to as it takes away the effort of seeking care from the client and brings the care straight to their homes.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, please call 1-877-303-2642 (toll free) if you reside within Alberta. The mental health crisis telephone line 902-429-8167 is also available for all Canadians.