5 Signs of Mental Illness in Seniors that you Should Not Ignore

Posted: 10/10/2019 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of seniors over 60 suffer from sort of mental health disorder.  As the number of seniors in the U.S. is set to nearly double between now and 2050, mental health, particularly in seniors, is of the utmost importance.


While mental illness is sometimes hereditary, there are common triggers for mental illness in seniors, including:


Substance abuse (alcohol, recreational drugs, prescription drugs, etc)

Dramatic change (including the death of a spouse or loved one, moving into assisted living, etc)

Dementia-related illness 

Short-term health troubles

Chronic illness

Physical limitations

Poor diet and lack of exercise


If your loved one faces one or more of these situations, it’s important to watch for warning signs of mental illness. Often times, however, there may not be obvious triggers present. That’s why diligence and observation are critical. 


As we recognize World Mental Health Day on October 10 (and value mental health throughout the year), it’s important for each of us to look out for warning signs of mental illness so that our loved ones can receive treatment. Here are five of the most common warning signs to observe: 

1. Changes in sleep patterns, energy or fatigue.

One of the earliest signs of mental illness in seniors is a change in energy levels. If Mom or Dad is constantly complaining about being tired all the time and the doctor has ruled out any physical health issues, there could be a cause for concern. 


Mom or Dad may not be so forthcoming, however, about their lack of energy. If you notice your loved one becoming more easily tired when visiting, or any changes in sleep duration, location or quality, you may want to discuss your observations with Mom or Dad’s doctor. 

2. Difficulty handling household tasks and decision making.

Confusion is a common symptom associated with Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders. It is also a frequent manifestation of mental health issues. Seniors suffering from mental health issues may struggle to make even simple decisions. They may avoid household tasks or struggle with daily routines, and may avoid them altogether. Your loved one may even avoid personal care routines like bathing and grooming. Any of these signs should be discussed with a health professional. 

3. Physical symptoms with no apparent cause.

Many experts refer to our stomachs as our “second brains.” That’s because mental health issues (even “everyday” stressors) can dramatically impact our gut health. Frequent digestive issues (gas, indigestion, bloating, constipation, etc) without obvious causes, headaches, aches and pains, and other physical symptoms can all be connected to mental health. 

4. Loss of interest in favorite activities.

We all feel “down” once in awhile. If Mom or Dad seems to be depressed, and the mood lasts for more than a week or two, it could indicate a larger issue. When suffering from mental illness, many seniors may also withdraw from social gatherings and seem disinterested in their favorite hobbies or activities. 

5. Changes in weight or eating habits.

It’s normal for our tastes to change as we age. Many seniors can seem to become “picky” eaters as they age. But, significant changes to eating habits (particularly “picking at” meals or avoiding them altogether) can be a manifestation of mental illness. This is especially true if you have noticed Mom or Dad losing (or gaining) large amounts of weight recently, without a concerted effort to change their appearance due to health concerns. 

Provide your senior loved one with the highest level of care.

It can be especially difficult to balance our responsibilities at work and home with caring for our senior loved ones. From a little help with daily tasks to skilled medical assistance, senior home care services from Interim HealthCare provide you with peace of mind while serving your loved one with compassionate, skilled care. To learn more about home care services in your area, contact your nearest Interim HealthCare location today.