4 Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness to Watch For in Older Adults

As the people you love age, you may be concerned about their mental health and ability to care for themselves. Unfortunately, mental health decline is a common reason older adults have to go into assisted living facilities. While cognitive skills do slow down somewhat in the natural course of aging, you should watch for signs that your loved one may be experiencing a more severe loss of functioning.

What is a Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a set of disorders that disrupt thoughts and behaviors, leaving the person unable to manage daily living tasks. Among older adults, depression, Alzheimer's, bipolar disorder, and dementia are common forms of elderly mental health difficulties. Millions of Americans are affected by these diagnoses every year. Here are four of the most common signs and symptoms.

Is Loss of Memory a Sign of Mental Illness?

Most people believe that memory loss is an unavoidable part of getting older. Unfortunately, this erroneous belief leads to many signs of mental illness being missed until they are at a more advanced stage. Alzheimer's and dementia in their early stages both manifest in memory problems in older adults. Losing things, asking the same questions repeatedly, and forgetting important dates and other information may all be an early sign of mental illness.

Are Changes in Self Care a Sign of Mental Illness?

If you notice that someone you love is not following everyday hygiene routines, it may be time to seek professional help. People struggling with mental decline may not be able to shower, dress, and take care of bathroom routines independently. For example, if someone you love has always been meticulous about clothing, makeup, etc., and suddenly seems to no longer care about those things, it could be a sign of a severe problem.

Is Social Withdrawal a Sign of Mental Illness?

If your loved one has always been socially engaged in the community and with friends and family and you see a sudden or gradual withdrawal from those connections, he or she may be dealing with a mental illness. You may notice that your loved ones no longer enjoy hobbies and activities that were once important to them. The reason could be that cognitive declines make it hard for them to participate any longer. For example, skipping a weekly Bingo game that they've attended religiously could mean that they have trouble processing the game's numbers or rules.

Are Mood Changes a Sign of Mental Illness?

Significant personality changes could be a sign of common mental disorders and may be an early warning sign of depression. If your loved one was once cheerful and outgoing and now they have become anxious and sad, it may be time to get help. It's important to note that everyone goes through ups and downs; however, if the changes last more than a couple of weeks, they could be a cause for concern.

Where Can We Find Help?

Professional help is available for senior adults experiencing signs of mental illness, and the earlier intervention begins, the better the prognosis. Some people may be reluctant to find help for themselves, either because they are embarrassed or don't know where to begin. Therefore, the role of the caregiver is vital in helping them find the right resources and treatment. At St. Anthony's Behavioral Health Hospital, we're glad to answer questions and point you in the right direction. Contact us today at our Olathe or Wichita location.