Aging can bring profound changes in physical, social and psychological functioning. For seniors, these changes can be overwhelming and can lead to other serious problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts, confusion, memory loss, anxiety, sleep problems and agitation.
It is estimated that up to 20% of adults aged 55 and older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, dementia and Alzheimer’s. About 11 percent of adults aged 65 and older are affected by Alzheimer’s alone. Other types of dementia bring the numbers even higher. By the age of 85 years, 30% of the population has Alzheimer’s disease. Age is associated with a 1-2% decline in functional ability per year and a sedentary lifestyle leads to an even more rapid decline.
Causes and risk factors for senior mental illness
Many factors can contribute to the mental health of individuals. In addition to the social, psychological and biological stressors on people of all ages, seniors can also lose their ability to live independently due to frailty, chronic pain or other physical or mental illnesses. Additionally, older adults are more likely to have experienced the loss of loved ones, a drop in socioeconomic status after retiring and possibly even physical disabilities. All of the following factors can increase the chances of a mental illness:
• Genetics – Individuals with relatives that have mental illnesses are more likely to also develop a mental illness.
• Long-term illnesses – Mental and physical health are inseparable and those with long-term physical conditions such as cancer, asthma, or diabetes are more likely to experience a mental illness or depression.
• Physical disabilities – Like with long-term illnesses, physical disabilities such as arthritis, cognitive impairments, heart problems, hearing or vision impairments, chronic pain, and falls or fractures can also lead to mental illnesses.
• Bereavement – the sudden death of a loved one can trigger mental health issues, even in older adults that have no history of mental illness.
• Drug or Alcohol Abuse – a history of drug or alcohol abuse increases the risk of mental illness and, conversely, a history of mental illness is associated with a greater chance of substance abuse.
• Past or present smoking – In addition to increased risk of cancer, COPD, and other physical illnesses, smoking is often linked with depression. Smokers with depression who quit smoking showed a noticeable improvement in mental health.
• Poor diet – Research has shown a link between nutritional intake and an individual’s psychological health. These findings might one day lead to dietary intervention for seniors and other individuals with mental health illnesses.
Houston help for seniors with mental illnesses
OakBend Medical Center’s Senior Behavioral Health Unit focuses on diagnosing and treating older adults to achieve the highest level of independence possible. Each patient is under the care of a trained team of professionals including registered nurses, social workers, activity therapists, and psychologists, all trained to identify the special behavioral and physical health needs of seniors. Their goal is to help their patients continue to live a happy and full life as they age. The studies are completed in an environment that maximizes the independence and maintains the dignity for every patient they treat.
If someone you know is suffering from any of these symptoms don’t hesitate to seek help by calling OakBend Medical Center today for a Houston senior mental illness consultation at 281-238-7880. With the combined efforts of families, caregivers, and the trained senior mental health professionals at OakBend Medical Center, we can help our loved ones stay on track to healthy aging and avoid any mental health illnesses.