Senior Mental Health

June 4, 2024

Everyone’s mental health is important, however when it comes to older people it often gets overlooked. It is important to look out for seniors and their mental well-being so that they can overall feel better and continue to lead a rewarding life. When seniors have mental health issues it creates a higher risk for many different age-related conditions including diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Why is depression in seniors overlooked?

There are always changes in behaviour that signify that something is wrong, however many of these changes go overlooked or unnoticed and therefore their mental health continues to decline without the help or support that they need. These changes in behaviour can often be small and therefore go unnoticed, which is why it is important to take notice of the smaller details and record any changes that you do notice in our service users. Here are some other examples as to why these changes go unnoticed:

  • The changes in behaviour are thought to be symptoms of another illness that the service user is suffering from.
  • The common belief that depression is just a “sign of age”.
  • The person is isolated and not visited often, therefore there are not many people viewing these changes in behaviour and therefore the symptoms are less likely to be noticed.
  • Changes in behaviour are small and therefore less noticeable.

It is often believed that depression and negative thoughts are a ‘normal’ part of later life, however this isn’t true, it’s just more common. If you, or someone who you caring for, are experiencing this it is important to reach out for help, whether this be to a loved one or a medical professional, it’s important to talk about how you’re feeling.

Other health problems are also a common way that the mental health issues go unnoticed, whether this be due to the symptoms of that illness or due to the side effects of the medication.

Signs to look out for

If you are worried about one of your service users or loved ones, here are some examples of common signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • A continuous sad or anxious mood that lasts longer than two weeks.
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
  • Acting restless or easily irritable.
  • Fatigue
  • Relaxed speech or movement.
  • Memory problems.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Trouble making decisions, in particular simple decisions or decisions that they have made easily before.
  • Difficulty sleeping, staying asleep or oversleeping.
  • Unintentional weight loss or weight gain.
  • Negative thoughts.
  • Neglecting their personal care.
  • Frequent crying.
  • Increased substance use.
  • Headaches and/or digestive problems.
  • Other aches and pains that doctors can’t find a related medical diagnosis for.

Diagnosing older people with mental health issues can be more difficult due to these smaller symptoms that go undetected as sadness is not always the first or clearest sign that something is wrong.

How to support them

If you have noticed any of these signs with a service user or a loved one the most important thing to do is to talk to them, make them feel seen and listen to what they have to say. It may be difficult for them to open up and discuss how they are feeling however having someone to talk to can be very beneficial to their well-being.

Encourage them to continue good self-care, try to encourage them to not isolate themselves and explore community resources and local groups that they can visit for more social opportunities.

If it is your service user who you notice is showing these symptoms, record these symptoms in your notes and make the office aware that you have your concerns.

If their symptoms are severe try to encourage them to get help from a professional, this can be done by making an appointment with their GP or by contacting the Samaritans.

To contact the Samaritans, call 116 123 or visit their website https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/

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