The first full week of the month of October is recognized as Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Mental health issues, such as depression, addiction or anxiety are not a normal part of aging. Sadly, most seniors who struggle with a mental health issue struggle with getting treatment. When left untreated, mental health issues can result in illness, fatigue or even suicide. During a pandemic, like COVID-19, it can significantly effect seniors’ mental health due to continual isolation and anxiety of becoming susceptible to the virus.
Now more than ever before, it is important to look out for red flags and bring awareness to the issue of mental health. By recognizing the warning signs of a mental illness, you may be able to help your senior loved one’s well-being and their safety.
Five warning signs of a mental illness include:
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Social withdrawal
- Excessive fear, anxiety or worry
- Long-lasting irritability or sadness
- Extremely high and low moods
Roughly 20% of senior adults in the United States are affected by mental health, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Sadly, many of these seniors do not receive treatment. When you are aware of your senior loved one’s emotional and mental health, you can make sure that they receive proper treatment and offer the support that they need.
Some situations that can cause possible triggers for those who are elderly and suffer with a mental health issue include:
- Physical disability or loss of their mobility
- Illness or loss of a loved one
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Physical illness that affects memory or emotions
- Pain that is chronic
- Cancer or heart disease
- Malnutrition or poor eating habits
Mental Health Assessment
Many senior adults recognize if they are struggling physically, but not psychiatrically. Clearly there are warning signs to look for as mentioned previously when it comes to a mental health illness. Another important thing when it comes to it is deciding if a consultation with a medical professional is needed? This is broken down in these five areas:
- Physical health – Pain, loss of appetite
- Medication safety – Skipping medications or suffering with serious side effects
- Safety – Driving and financial safety
- Self-care activities – Getting dressed or cooking
- Brain health – Feelings of hopelessness
We can help seniors living with mental health illnesses by bringing awareness to these issues. It is our job to replace the stigma of mental illness with hope. Keep a close eye on your loved one and don’t be afraid to give them support in seeking help from their doctor.