Senior Health: Aging or Symptoms of Mental Illness?

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Aging causes numerous changes, but many loved ones mistakenly focus on just the physical aspects of growing older. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), over 20% of seniors over the age of 65 exhibit signs of a mental illness. Unfortunately, many cases go undiagnosed. In recognition of national Mental Health Month, home Care Clearwater highlights the most common forms of mental illness in seniors and how to detect the warning signs.


Depression is perhaps the most common type of mental illness in seniors. Many aging adults experience rapid changes, thereby changing life as they know it. Still, depression is not considered “normal” in seniors and affects 15-20% of seniors at some point in their later years, according to the APA. Signs may include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and sleeping problems
  • Loss of interest in activities

Depression is important to treat early, as it can be a precursor to suicide—the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that men are at the highest risk, with an astonishing 45% of those over 85 years old affected.


There is a misconception that older adults are inherently cranky, but irritability is a normal response to stress and illness in adults of all ages. However, anxiety is a whole other issue, and it directly affects the way everyday situations are handled. Some seniors may exhibit signs of anxiety such as:

  • Panic
  • Unreasonable fears
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath

According to the CDC, about half of seniors who have depression also have an anxiety disorder, and it affects about 13% of all older adults.


Dementia is a broad term that refers to diseases with cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, with the APA reporting that it affects 1 out of every 8 adults over 65 years of age. Some of the most common signs include:

  • Memory decline
  • Constant forgetfulness
  • Speaking difficulties
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Mood changes

Mental illnesses are not normal with aging. Furthermore, such health crises are difficult for seniors to detect on their own, so it’s important that Clearwater caregivers speak up on their behalf. Help your loved one discuss potential mental health concerns with a doctor for timely treatment.

If your senior loved one’s current state of mind has you worried about him or her living alone, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our experienced hourly and live-in caregivers in Clearwater can help your loved one around the house, provide transportation, and offer companionship and emotional support. To learn more, give our office a call at (727) 330-7862 and schedule a complimentary in-home consultation with a trusted Care Manager.


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