Recognizing the warning signs of mental illness in an older person can help the person (and his or her caregivers) cope with the symptoms and receive the appropriate treatment.
The main symptoms of mental illness in an aging person may include changes in mood, lack of personal care, social isolation, and memory problems.
- Sudden Mood Swings
Unexpected changes in mood are frequent in depression and dementia. An aging person’s mood may suddenly switch from optimistic and cheerful to depressed, calm, and collected to angry and irritable, relaxed to anxious, and so on.
If you notice these symptoms in a loved one, encourage them to seek help or talk to their mental health provider. An older adult may be reluctant to seek advice, so ensure that you encourage and support them.
- Personal Care Challenges
Your loved one with mental health issues may stop sticking to their personal care and appearance. They may skip the usual own care routines such as bathing, grooming, changing their clothes regularly, and similar. These behaviors may signal that the person struggles with dementia or mental illness.
- Social Withdrawal
If an aging person suffers from mental health issues, they may become isolated and socially withdrawn. Your loved one may start avoiding familiar people, lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, or avoid other usual social engagements because mental illness prevents them from adhering to their regular social routines.
- Memory Loss
Problems with memory are often wrongly considered a normal part of the aging process. However, memory loss is not a natural part of growing older. If your loved one keeps asking the same questions, often misplaces their belongings, forgets essential information such as names, dates, of significant life events, encourage them to speak to their doctor. They may have Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
Encourage your loved one to talk to their doctor about these symptoms.