There are many changes that people experience as they age; loneliness, bereavement and illnesses can all affect mental health in a negative way. Clinical depression in older people is common, but it doesn’t have to be just accepted. When you know what to look out for you can quickly notice when elderly loved ones may be having issues with their mental health and act accordingly.
What can trigger mental health issues for the elderly?
Many mental health problems can be diagnosed in a person’s teens and early 20s; however, issues can appear at any time in a person’s life and as a person gets older there are a number of changes in their life that can cause mental health issues to become apparent, such as;
- Health problems – Physical pain that comes with ageing as well as cognitive decline, surgery, and sickness can all be contributing factors towards late in life mental health problems.
- Reduced sense of purpose – Many people rely on their job to structure their day, give them identity, confidence and financial security. Retirement can affect the elderly in adverse ways. Getting older can also make it harder to take part in activities that previously gave identity and confidence, whichcan result in negative mental health implications.
- Loneliness and bereavement – Living alone, having a dwindling social circle and losing loved ones can take place as someone ages, leading to mental health problems.
- Fear – Fear of death, dying and cognitive decline can greatly affect the elderly; as well as this there can be fears of financial insecurity that can cause anxiety.
1) Memory loss
Memory loss shouldn’t be written off as a normal part of ageing. Signs like misplacing items, not recognising people, or repeatedly asking for information are all signs of memory loss. There has been increased research between depression and memory loss, and several studies (2013, 2015) that look into the correlation between memory loss and mental health issues like depression cite the two to go hand in hand with depression making it harder to focus and concentrate on day-to-day life.
2) Weight change or changes in appetite
Sudden changes in weight, both reductions or increases, can be an early symptom of mental health issues. Feelings of panic, anxiety and depression can cause changes in appetite and therefore weight changes.
There is research that has shown a link between depression and a lack of interplay between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands that can affect the function of the gastrointestinal tract and make it harder for people to register when they are hungry, or full.
Mental health issues like depression that can cause feelings of hopelessness and lack of interest in old hobbies can also lead to overeating out of boredom or undereating due to not having the motivation to get meals.
Weight change is not only caused by mental health issues, and any changes in weight for the elderly should be reviewed by a medical professional.
3) Reduced interest in hobbies
Ageing can lead to a reduction of hobbies for physical reasons if the body can no longer keep up with activities and hobbies like it used to. Mental health issues can also be a factor; negative mental health can make it harder to focus on, and feel passionate about, things that used to bring happiness. This can come from anhedonia, which is a symptom of depression and makes the sufferer unable to feel pleasure in things, which in turn can show as a lack of enthusiasm and general apathy. This in turn works in a cycle and promotes further depressive behaviours, as regularly pursuing hobbies can limit adverse mental health.
4) Difficulty maintaining home or appearance
When an elderly person is experiencing mental health issues this can be noticeable in changes to their personal care routine, the way they look and ability to keep the home in order. Depression can make it difficult for people to prioritise personal care and have the motivation to keep their home tidy. This can result in further issues such as trips and falls in the home and skin problems from neglecting personal hygiene. A live-in carer is a good way to ensure you or your loved one’s personal hygiene is taken care of. At Care24Seven we are able to organise reliable live-in care to help ease the burden.
5) Fatigue and trouble sleeping
Depression and anxiety can have negative impacts on sleeping patterns. Around 50% of all insomnia cases are related to anxiety, depression and psychological stress. Though lack of sleep can be caused by mental health problems, it can also cause further issues. Sleep deprivation can lead to impaired concentration, memory decline and impaired functional performance; in the elderly this can be especially dangerous as it can lead to harmful falls.
Mental health issues can make ageing more difficult than it needs to be; however, keeping an eye out for early symptoms means that you can act accordingly if you suspect that you or a loved one is having trouble with their mental health. The expert carers at Care24Seven are just a phone call away. Whether you’re looking for part time care, full time care or even advice, we can help.