CommunityHealth Fix


HealthFix: Changes in Mental Health for the Elderly

Posted at 6:48 AM, Dec 18, 2014

As the holiday season brings loved ones together in celebration, it may be a good time to pay closer attention to the health and wellness of the older members in your family. Studies show that older individuals are more susceptible to illness and mental disorders, and, if left untreated, can be life threatening. Although the subject of mental health may be difficult to discuss, it is important to seek medical attention if you notice certain symptoms, as many mental disorders can be managed.

Common types of mental disorders in the senior community

  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

What are the warning signs of mental disorders?

  • Sudden social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest or apathy toward activities
  • Problems with concentration, memory, logical thought
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, or touch
  • Avoidance of over-stimulating situations
  • Anxiety or fear of others
  • Dramatic sleep and appetite changes
  • Sudden shifts in mood

If you suspect a family member has developed a mental disorder, or if he or she is showing early warning signs, it is important to seek medical attention. Above all, family involvement, support, and education are vital for the care of an older individual who has a mental disorder.

Early intervention can make a significant difference in prevention and management of a mental disorder.

Elena James, M.D.
Salt Lake Regional Medical Center