It is no secret that mental health concerns can be a part of aging. While we all logically know that this is a possibility as we age, it is never any easier to experience the reduction of mental acuity that can affect senior members of our family as they age. For many people, these changes are subtle and progress over time, but there are instances where mental health changes can happen quite abruptly.

Mental health in older adults can be challenging for everyone, from the older person to the family caring for them as they experience these changes. Being armed with some knowledge about these mental health changes can be a big assistance if you are caring for an older person in your family.

Five Facts About Mental Health and Older Adults

Mental health issues can range from small changes, to serious alterations in mental state that cannot be managed without the help of experienced mental health professionals. Knowing when to seek help can be a difficult part of the care process when you are looking after a senior. Always remember to consult a doctor if you have concerns about the mental well-being of a senior you are caring for.

1. Mental Health Changes Are Not a Normal Part of Aging

This is a major factor that caregivers must remember. Mental health acuity changes might be a part of the aging process, but emotional issues like sadness or anger and fear are not part of normal aging. 80% of mental health conditions in seniors are treatable and getting a doctor involved if the senior in your life is experiencing emotional changes is a necessity.

Being able to help the senior in your life to experience joy and comfort is important and they may not be able to tell that they are in need of help to balance their emotions or address mental health concerns.

2. Suicide is Common Amount Older Adults

Suicide rates for all ages are on the rise, but this has actually been a common mental health concern for the senior population for some time. Baby boomers have the highest suicide rate of any grouping of birth cohorts that has been studied. 

Some of the reasons for this stark statistic is related to commonly-held beliefs from this social group’s younger years that taught them that mental health was a choice and that everyone should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. These held over ideals from post WWII America are very detrimental to seniors in the US and leads to this high rate of suicide.

3. Misdiagnosis are Very Common

Due to the focus in the US on the vibrancy of youth, seniors often struggle to get access to good healthcare. It is very common for seniors to be misdiagnosed with normal aging conditions that are in fact, mental health concerns. Despite statistics that show that 20% of people aged 55 and older have a mental health issue, the medical community continues to be slow to respond to this evidence of a rise in senior mental health concerns.

4. Seniors do not Advocate Well for Themselves

Many seniors are poor advocates for their own mental health needs. The pressures of society to put a happy face on even when you do not feel happy, combined with a lack of energy and desire to address concerns in general, can lead to seniors being ignored by health professionals. Seniors who have family members advocating for them are far more likely to receive proper mental health treatment.

5. Senior Mental Health Needs Are Unique

While many people only think of Alzheimer’s and other more significant health concerns as being the usual senior mental health conditions, changes in brain function and overall health can lead to other senior-specific mental health conditions. Many seniors feel a lack of control over their life that can lead to depression or fear, and these social concerns might need the same attention as a more serious, biologically-driven mental health need.

Mental health for seniors is a multi-faceted practice that can often only be undertaken correctly by a doctor trained specifically in senior mental health care.

Mental Health in Older Adults Can be Challenging to Address

For those who are caregiving for a senior family member, the difficulties of trying to help an adult guide their mental health treatment process, combined with a lack of support from the healthcare community, can lead to a frustrating lack of success at treating senior mental health concerns.

Seeking proper mental health assistance and care can be difficult, but it is an important part of attending to the needs of senior family members in your life. Careful mental health guidance and treatment can improve the lives of everyone in your family, from the senior themselves, to everyone else who helps them to meet their daily needs.

Mental health for seniors is often a challenging part of the aging process, but there are many supportive care options out there if you and the senior in your life are willing to advocate for proper treatment.