As our loved ones age, it’s natural for some changes to occur. Regular forgetfulness is one thing, however; persistent memory loss or cognitive impairment is another thing and potentially serious. The same goes for acute or chronic anxiety or short term or long term depression. Caregivers should keep an eye out for the following warning signs, which could indicate a mental health concern:
- Sad or depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks
- Social withdrawal; loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
- Unexplained fatigue, energy loss, or sleep changes
- Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making
- Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in weight
- Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems
- Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide
- Physical problems that can not otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
- Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard
- Trouble handling finances or working with numbers
Do not hesitate to ask for help if your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms above, says the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation. There are professionals out there willing and able to help, including your family doctor, who is always a good place to start. You could also consult a counselor, a psychologist, or a geriatric psychiatrist. The important part is not to stand by and suffer alone.
With the combined efforts of families, caregivers, and mental health professionals, we can help ward off mental illness in our older loved ones and make sure they are on the right track to healthy aging.