Everyone has had the experience of feeling anxiety about an upcoming event or encounter. Likewise, everyone has felt the blues and experienced episodes of depression. However, clinical anxiety and depression are much more severe and have a significant impact on a person’s life.
The elderly are at risk of developing either or both of these mental illnesses, so during Mental Health Month, it’s a chance for family caregivers to check in with their aging loved one, their physician, home care aides and friends to see if they are witnessing any warning signs of anxiety or depression.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Seniors
Up to 11 percent of elderly Americans struggle with chronic anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association. Experiencing significant life changes, often due to aging, grief and loss, can open up the mind to feelings of anxiety that can have a dramatic effect on the elderly.
Anxiety manifests in many different ways, including dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, abdominal pain and panic attacks. Other symptoms may include paranoia, obsessive behavior, insomnia, irritability and mood swings. The physical symptoms of anxiety may be misdiagnosed as other illnesses or conditions, leaving the elderly person undiagnosed and therefore untreated for their mental illness.
Symptoms of Depression in Seniors
More than 20 percent of seniors may be suffering with chronic depression, according to the APA. Major events and life changes can trigger episodes of depression. Examples include declining physical ability due to age, reduced independence, developing chronic health conditions, moving into a new home, death of a loved one and an overall sense of loss.
Symptoms of depression include reduced appetite, emotional withdrawal, excessive sleep or insomnia, increased drug or alcohol use, lower energy levels, lack of concentration and thoughts of suicide. Because many of the symptoms coincide with other age-related conditions, it’s easy for physicians, friends and family to overlook the signs that their elderly loved one is suffering.
Struggling Seniors Need Mental Health Care
There’s no doubt that seniors with anxiety or depression need to start treatment right away. Usually, this means a combination of therapy and medication. While the social stigma surrounding mental illness has lessened in recent years, many elderly people still associate therapy with some of the negative stereotypes seen in the media. Because seniors grew up in a time where mental health services were very underdeveloped, they may not have confidence that treatments can really help. Still others may be in denial that anything is wrong with them.
It’s up to family caregivers to convince their aging loved ones that their mental health is just as important as their physical health and to seek out help from qualified professionals. They can work hard to remove any obstacles that might prevent their elderly loved one from attending therapy, such as arranging transportation with a home care agency or family member. Above all, family caregivers need to reassure their elderly loved one that mental health treatments will enable them to live their life to the fullest once again.
If you or an aging loved one are considering home care in Fox Chapel, PA, please contact the friendly staff at Liken Home Care. Call (412) 693-6820 or (855) 856-0551