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Warning Signs of Mental Health Illness in Older Adults

Warning Signs of Mental Health Illness in Older Adults

One of the things that Filipinos are most known for is our strong family ties. Children often stay in close contact with their parents even after they get married and have a family of their own. They check if their senior parents need anything and are often worried about their physical health. But aside from their physical health, addressing mental health concerns in older adults should also be a priority. How can you help seniors establish trauma coping skills?

How to Cope with Trauma

Common Causes of Stress in Older Adults

Some of the mental health concerns in older adults stem from the changes they experience in their life. Examples of these changes are:

  • Caring for grandchildren
  • Caring for a sick spouse
  • New lifestyle and financial status after retiring
  • Death of a loved one or friend
  • Reduced ability to do things on their own due to a chronic illness or physical disability
  • Not being able to live as independently as before

At times, older adults also worry about who will take care of them. They might feel anxious about depending on their children and other relatives when they feel that should be minding their own family.

trauma coping skills

Mental Health Warning Signs in Older Adults

Before you can establish healthy trauma coping skills in the elderly, you must first watch out for the following red flags. These red flags may indicate that your senior parent is having a mental health problem:

Isolation and Withdrawal

The importance of maintaining healthy social relationships doesn’t decrease with age. In fact, a lot of older adults enjoy being socially active. Hence, if you notice that your parent is withdrawing from social activities, they could be exhibiting an early sign of mental illness.

Abrupt Behavioral Changes

Experts explain that one of the hallmark signs of mental illness is sudden changes in behavior.

However, if you notice that a behavioral change happened after a particular event, don’t conclude right away that your parent is suffering from a mental health issue. For example, an elderly may really feel agitated after suffering an injury. They might also withdraw a little if they changed their living situation.

What you need to keep a close eye on is if these behavioral changes happen without an underlying cause.

Difficulty in Making Decisions

If you notice that your elder is being indecisive, they might require medical help. According to doctors, mental health illnesses may also manifest as indecisiveness. The reasons could vary, from not caring about the outcome to extensive worry about not making the right decision.

Sometimes, your senior parent may find it hard to decide because they are experiencing problems with their memory and judgment.

Deviation from Normal Patterns

Trauma coping skills may be necessary when you notice that the senior is deviating from their normal habits or patterns.

Doctors agree that this is such a broad symptom and it is often overlooked. After all, each of us is unique and it’s perfectly okay to change the way we do things, particularly as we age and gain experience.

However, don’t ignore subtle changes, especially when they are uncharacteristic of the elderly. Mental health concerns in older adults could manifest in:

Physical Distress

Various mental health concerns in older adults could manifest as physical symptoms. That’s why your senior parents may experience unexplained pains and aches.

Sometimes, the focus of physical distress is the digestive system. Hence, they might suffer from conditions like loss of appetite or nausea.

Other Red Flags to Look Into

Seniors suffering from mental health issues also show other signs, such as:

  • Being hopeless and helpless
  • Having persistent worries and anxieties
  • Problems in movement and speech
  • Lack of interest and energy
  • Feeling strong emotions like rage
  • Being irritable
  • Neglecting simple, basic things like personal hygiene

trauma coping skills

When to Seek Medical Help

Consult a healthcare professional the minute you suspect that an elderly’s mental wellbeing is compromised.

Seek medical help right away especially if the senior’s symptoms are disrupting their daily routine. For example, they can no longer take care of their hygiene or they are not taking their medications anymore.

How Can You Help

In the presence of mental health concerns in older adults, you can help by:

Accepting your feelings. You may be worried and frustrated that your loved one has developed a mental illness–that’s perfectly normal. Before you can help your parent, you must first acknowledge your feelings.

Preparing their medical documents. These documents should include their name, date of birth, and medical history. Having these papers ready will make it easier for the doctor to address both their physical and mental health concerns.

Taking note of all the signs and symptoms you have noticed. These are the red flags that led you to the conclusion that they may need mental health treatment.

Having an honest discussion with your elderly parent. Tell them that you are worried and offer your support and encouragement.

Asking the doctor relevant questions. Most importantly, ask the doctor how you can effectively handle the signs and symptoms of your loved one’s mental illness. Also, ask them how you can help prevent serious consequences like violence and suicide.

Healthy Habits for Seniors to Keep

Many adults will refuse to open up about their problems and they might even reject medical help. According to reports, the hesitation is partly due to the elderly’s inability to explain what they are experiencing and the stigma attached to mental health illnesses.

Follow through with what the doctors advise you to do and monitor your parents closely. Learn more about their condition and understand the risks associated with the symptoms.

Learn more about Healthy Mind here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Dec 17, 2020
Expertly reviewed by Melissa Nadine Caraan, M.D.