by Jenny Holt
The world’s population is getting old, with nearly 2 billion people aged 60 years and above expected to inhabit the planet in the next 35 years (WHO Statistics). An aging population comes with physical and mental challenges which need to be recognized and managed as part of a healthy lifestyle.
One of the most common mental health conditions affecting elderly people is depression, with pain and suffering causing impairment in day-to-day activities. About 7% of the geriatric population suffer from unipolar depression, according to WHO figures. Seniors who experience depression are more likely to have poor functioning compared to others suffering from chronic diseases.
Improving early diagnosis of depression is key to managing its symptoms, especially in primary care settings. If you are a senior, it is critical to recognize signs such as sadness, unexplained aches, weight or appetite loss and the feeling of desolation among others. Some medical conditions can also cause depression. Avoiding isolation, decreasing your alcohol intake, making sure you get adequate sleep and participating in exercise and social activities can all help to reduce the consequences of depression. Medication and psychotherapy may also be prescribed by doctors.
WHO estimates that there are nearly 47.5 million in the world affected by dementia. It is predicted to increase to 75.6 million by 2030. Dementia is characterized by a decline in mental functioning including memory, behavior, thinking and the ability to perform daily tasks. It is not part of normal aging, but mainly affects the elderly.
Seniors living with dementia face enormous challenges including physical and emotional stress. It has significant economic and social implications to society in terms of healthcare and social costs. For families and caregivers, it also has physical, emotional, and financial burdens.
The promotion of health is key to preventing the onset of dementia. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, avoiding drugs, alcohol, and smoking, exercising, engaging in mental activities, or improving social contacts can all help to reduce the risks of dementia. It is important to provide both sufferers and caregivers the support they need. For caregivers, proper education and training help them cope better in assisting seniors affected by dementia.
Another mental condition that affects seniors is anxiety. Some symptoms include headaches, pain, sleeplessness, and a rapid heartbeat. Although it is difficult to separate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and dementia, the disorder is a treatable condition and early diagnosis is important.
Elderly people who experience anxiety symptoms should talk to their primary care physician to get an accurate diagnosis. The doctor can prescribe medication to treat the problem and if combined with psychotherapy, this can be quite effective in getting rid of or controlling anxiety. It is important though to spot the symptoms early, get a treatment plan in cooperation with the patient, physician, family members and caregivers.
Prompt diagnosis along with treatment of physical illnesses is vital in the management of mental health issues affecting seniors. When these are addressed, there is no reason for the remaining years of the elderly to be anything but satisfying, comfortable and dignified.