WHAT ARE THE MENTAL ILLNESSES OF THE ELDERLY?

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Aging is a process that affects not only the physical aspects of the body’s functioning, but also the decline in the intellectual performance of seniors. It may lower their quality of life and negatively affect the relations of seniors with the environment. You should be aware that in this period, mental diseases of the elderly may also become a problem.

From the text you will learn:

  • what is Alzheimer’s disease,
  • what are the causes and symptoms of depression in seniors,
  • where do anxiety come from in the elderly.

Mental disorders of old age are a very serious problem: the senior gradually loses independence, isolates himself from others, becomes completely dependent on third parties, sometimes even dangerous to himself and to the environment. Until recently, mental illness in the elderly was a taboo subject. Despite effective methods of inhibiting their development, seniors did not receive adequate help and were doomed to progressive social isolation. Meanwhile, the causes and symptoms of mental illness in the elderly can be treated quite effectively, which allows the elderly to remain independent for a long time.

Mental diseases of the elderly – Alzheimer’s

One of the most common mental disorders in seniors is senile dementia , also known as dementia. This term covers many different dementia diseases, such as: impairment of cognitive performance, emotional and personality changes.

These diseases include, among others Alzheimer’s disease. It is a condition caused by the accumulation of abnormally built proteins in the tissues of the brain that form deposits, leading to necrosis of the brain tissue, and ultimately to its disappearance. It is believed that the development of Alzheimer’s disease may be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.

Alzheimer’s disease is tricky and difficult to diagnose, especially since its early symptoms, such as trouble concentrating, remembering, slower speaking, and moving, can be attributed simply to aging. Over time, however, problems worsen and the person becomes completely dependent on third parties.

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s cannot be cured – only its progress can be inhibited. The therapy primarily includes the use of specific pharmacological agents, as well as classes with a psychologist, as well as occupational and environmental therapy.

Mental disorders in the elderly – depression

One of the fairly common mental disorders in the elderly is depression . In its course, the patient experiences a chronic depressed mood, reduced energy and willingness to live. Factors in the development of depression among the elderly include:

  • death of a loved one,
  • a sense of loneliness,
  • financial problems related to a low pension,
  • chronic diseases,
  • progressive disability and dependence on other people,
  • taking certain medications.

Particularly noticeable in the elderly is the link between the occurrence of depression and diseases typical of old age. According to research, depressive disorders occur in 30-42% of patients with cancer, 15-20% of patients with coronary artery disease, 9-25% of patients with arterial hypertension and 20-40% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

It has been observed that the symptoms of depression in elderly patients are slightly different than in younger patients. In patients over 50, the clinical picture of depression is dominated by irritability, nervousness, anxiety, difficulties in falling asleep and hypochondriac complaints.

Mental diseases in older people – anxiety states

The mental illnesses of older people also include various types of anxiety. They are divided into two main groups:

  • phobias – e.g. social phobia or agoraphobia,
  • anxiety disorders with panic attacks, i.e. episodic panic disorder.

In seniors, anxiety attacks are most dangerous – they usually last a few minutes, rarely longer than 20-30 – the body reacts quite quickly to the anxiety situation by releasing adrenaline. During this time, the feeling of panic subsides, but some kind of emotional breakdown and anxiety can take much longer, of course. In the case of anxiety attacks, the patient is very often unable to determine its cause, but links it to the situation in which it appeared for the first time.

Mental disorders of old age – although sometimes difficult to diagnose and treat – do not have to mean complete dependence and social isolation. The most important thing is to seek specialist help in time!