“Don’t pay attention when Nana talks like that; she is just a little funny in the head; she is old”- Since time immemorial, this is how people would speak of those living with mental health issues. The lucky ones with loving families were treated with mild amusement and reluctant tolerance; the unlucky ones were ignored, marginalized, or institutionalized. Thankfully, society’s view of mental health has progressed by leaps and bounds, particularly in the last decade. Public awareness and education has made it easier for people to open about their condition and to seek help. But, work still needs to be done as many still suffer in silence. This is especially true for seniors. Because of the myriad of other challenges that face seniors, mental health is often overlooked. It is just considered in relation to Alzheimer’s or dementia, or not considered at all. This needs to change; one in four seniors already suffers from mental illness and it is estimated that within 25 years, seniors will have the highest mental illness rate in the country1.
Mental health issues are something that we are born with; it is the result of something that is happening with our body, but outside influences will exacerbate pre-existing conditions. Given the challenges that seniors already face, it is easy to understand why mental health issues are so predominant in this age group. Alzheimer’s and dementia will usually strike at older adults. But, depression can be worsened if someone is isolated from loved ones or lonely. Financial issues and other health problems will bring on anxiety attacks. Being cognizant of your loved one’s personal challenges will help you to be vigilant about mental health issues that may arise.
Here are a few mental health issues that older adults often face:
Alzheimer’s & Dementia– The biggest mental health challenge facing seniors continues to be Alzheimer’s and dementia. Currently, there are approximately 548,000 older Canadians living with dementia. That number is expected to rise to 937,000 in the next 15 years 2. Dementia is often characterized by memory loss, confusion, inability to do complex tasks, and difficulty communicating.
Depression– Between 5-10% of seniors will experience depression serious enough to warrant treatment, but only 10% will seek it 3. Many older adults dismiss depression as just “feeling blue” or feel that they are making something out of nothing. Often, financial issues, loneliness, and the loss of a mate will compound the feelings of depression.
Anxiety Disorders– Outside factors can also intensify or even cause anxiety disorders. This can be marked by panic attacks, phobias, general anxiety, paranoia, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. If left untreated, anxiety disorders will also lead to depression.
Schizophrenia– Although rare in older adults, schizophrenia is a concern. Most cases develop in young adulthood, though some people go for decades without being properly diagnosed. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and chaotic behaviour.
Despite the increased awareness, there are still many wrong assumptions made about mental illness. People living with it do not need to be institutionalized. Many people living with mental health issues comfortably in their own home. But, this is only possible with treatment and care. If your loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it might be time to seek help. Home care assistance is your answer. At iCare Home Health, we offer premier home care for your loved ones. Our special Alzheimer & Dementia Support at Home package is built around the idea that each client is unique and has their own set of needs. The custom care plan can include companionship, mental stimulation, safety monitoring, meal preparation, and more. Our other packages offer different services that may fit other needs. iCare Home Health operates in the Toronto, Mississauga, and Oakville areas. We will bring care to your loved ones and peace of mind to you. Contact us today.