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Senior's Mental Health

Raise your hand if you have a senior or two in your family, or you are a senior in your family! Now that everyone has their hand up, give each other a virtual high-five! Oh, I do! I have a senior in my life!Our seniors hold a wealth of information, experience, and advice. Today’s seniors are active, working, and volunteering in their communities.

Being over 65 doesn’t mean you aren’t susceptible to mental illness. Sometimes seniors have a harder time knowing they are mentally ill as they may not recognize the differences between normal changes due to aging versus mental illness.

Did you know that, in Canada, 20% of those aged 65 years and older are living with a mental illness?

Seniors tend to report physical symptoms rather than mental symptoms, making it hard to diagnose or treat mental illness in seniors. As you age, it is natural for some changes to occur, making it difficult to know if it is mental illness or a part of aging.

What can you look out for?

  • Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home.
  • Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making.
  • Worry a lot or feel anxious.
  • Decrease or increase in appetite.
  • Depressed mood lasting longer than 2 weeks.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness, suicidal thoughts.
  • Having a hard time remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains.
  • Struggle to do simple chores.
  • Social withdrawal, loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable.
  • Trouble with finances, or handling numbers.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.

As you can see, these symptoms can be easily mistaken for a normal part of aging, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease. No need to panic if you experience these symptoms or a senior in your life does. Depending on where you live, there are different options for assessments. Speaking to your doctor can start an mental health assessment, including depression or dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society has a checklist on comparing dementia and normal aging hereIf you or someone you love is in crisis, call 911.

If you are a caregiver for a senior in your life, are you taking care of your own mental health? Caregiving can be a mentally exhausting task, along with working fulltime, meeting your family’s needs, and your own needs. You can also take a Mental Health First Aid Course with a focus on Seniors to recognize symptoms in your loved ones.

Do you care for a senior? Or, are you a senior? What methods do you use to cope with life changes?

-Merissa

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