Warning Signs May Signal Mental Health Issues in Elderly

by michellerogers on August 21, 2009

As people age, the potential exists for those years to be the most rewarding and fulfilling time of their lives. However, major illness, retirement, the death of a spouse and a shrinking circle of friends all may, in some cases, contribute to increased levels of stress and depression in the elderly.

“Though many seniors have developed positive coping skills and emotional maturity, others may experience Alzheimer’s disease, addictions, anxiety disorders and depression,” said Dr. Nitin Nanda of the Los Angeles Jewish Home. “Deteriorating physical health can quickly change a happy retirement into a period of confusion, fear and chronic pain. When disabilities occur later in life, individuals who were involved in working, socializing and traveling may suddenly face lower incomes, reduced mobility, and dependence on caregivers and assistive devices. These changes can have a dramatic effect on seniors’ mental and emotional well-being.”

 Nanda offers these 10 tips that show a senior might need help:


  • Depressed mood or sadness lasting more than two weeks
  • Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, hopelessness or helplessness
  • Decreased ability to think, concentrate or make decisions
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Social withdrawal, change in activity level, loss of interest in hobbies or irritability
  • Loss or increase in appetite or weight change
  • Sleep changes, such as insomnia or sleeping more than usual
  • Change in appearance or standard of dress
  • Aches, pains and other physical problems that cannot otherwise be explained
  • Alcohol, drug abuse and/or misuse

“Depression and other types of mental health issues can be sensitively and successfully treated,” Nanda said. “However, it is critical to recognize the need in a timely way and be aware of the various signs.”

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