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5 Warning Signs of Mental Illness in Seniors

The signs of physical illness are usually easy to spot. When it comes to mental health, the signs that something is wrong aren’t always so obvious. As our loved ones age, we tend to keep a closer eye on their health – making sure they make all their doctor’s appointments, take their medications, and get immediate care when needed. While we’re paying such close attention to these details, the need for mental health services can slip by, completely unnoticed.


Seniors are at an elevated risk for experiencing mental health disorders, and early detection is one way to ensure they get the care they need. Here are a few of the warning signs of a mental health illness you might not be aware of.


Changes In Normal Patterns


This is broad but changes in normal patterns is one of the first signs of mental health distress, and it’s also one of the most overlooked. It’s perfectly natural over time to change the way we do things, or adopt new rituals, and as a person ages we tend to expect this more in certain areas. However, even subtle changes shouldn’t be ignored.


For instance, a sudden lack of interest in a favorite hobby, rising later in the day, or not keeping salon appointments or seeming to let self-care, both physical and emotional, slip to the side should all be considered red flags.


Difficulty Making Decisions


Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues breed indecisiveness. This might stem from an underlying worry over making the right decision, to apathy and just not being concerned with the outcome. The decision-making process also requires the use of memory function and judgement, which can be impaired when a mental health issue is present.


Sudden Behavioral Changes


Sudden behavior changes are one of the hallmark signs that someone may be in need of mental health services. There might be other causes for sudden behavior changes – for example, a recent painful injury might make a person mildly agitated, or a change in living situation may cause some short-term withdrawal. However, if behavior changes seem to have no obvious underlying cause, it’s worth discussing your concerns with a doctor.


Social Withdrawal


Social interaction is important, and the need doesn’t diminish once we reach our golden years. As children, family, and friends slip out of the daily picture, forming new bonds and staying active socially is important for a senior’s mental health. Most seniors enjoy these interactions, but if you start to notice your loved one withdrawing, and losing interest in being around other people, they may be experiencing the early signs of a mental illness.


Digestive Distress


We don’t often think of digestive distress as a key sign of mental illness but think about the last time you were overly stressed or anxious. Did your appetite suffer, or did you have other symptoms, such as nausea? The connection is more than just imagined. There is a biological connection between gut health and mental health, and persistent digestive distress with no apparent cause should always be discussed with a doctor.


Making Senior Mental Health a Priority


Mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and memory loss, shouldn’t be thought of as a normal part of the aging process. As we’re becoming more aware of mental health concerns, it’s important that we not leave seniors out of the mix. If you’re concerned the senior in your life is suffering and in need of mental health services, we’re here to help. Contact Princeton Health Care Center to learn more about the services we provide, and our long-term senior care facility today.

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