May 10, 2019

A Quick Guide for Mental Health in Older Adults

Too often, society focuses only on physical health and neglects mental or emotional health. Individuals and organizations have been improving their approach to mental health in the last few years, but it’s still a topic that’s often neglected. No one is immune to a decline in their mental or emotional health, including older adults.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that 20 percent of people over the age of 55 experience some type of mental health concern. That’s one in five people in an assisted living community, skilled nursing community, or even a home health program. The most common mental health disorder among older adults is depression.

Many people, especially older adults, might be unable to tell the difference between “feeling blue” and having depression. That’s why healthcare professionals and caregivers have a responsibility to look after someone’s mental health, not just their physical health. To help all people better identify depression, below is a list of signs that someone might be depressed. It’s important to remember that all individual cases are unique, and just because someone shows the below signs doesn’t necessarily mean they are depressed. On the other hand, someone could be depressed and not display any of the signs listed below. However, it’s been identified by mental health professionals that the below signs are common indicators of depression.

Common Signs of Depression

  1. Memory difficulties or personality changes
  2. Fatigue or sleeping too much
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. A desire to stay home rather than socialize
  5. Suicidal thoughts or feelings, especially in older men
  6. Angry or frustrated outbursts, even over small issues
  7. Restlessness and anxiety
  8. Alluding to depressed or anxious moods with language such as “My nerves are worked up,” or “I’m feeling down today.”
  9. Neglecting once-loved activities
  10. Unexplained aches and pains

Whether you’re a caregiver or a healthcare professional, there are tips you can follow to help improve someone’s mental health.

Tips for Improving Mental Health

  1. If someone is reluctant to share their emotions and feelings, try opening up to them first to make them more comfortable.
  2. Host educational group discussions to remove the stigma around mental health.
  3. If someone is venting to you, listen fully and ask questions when appropriate.
  4. Offer informational support through advice and guidance.
  5. Offer to help them find a mental health professional to talk with.
  6. Educate yourself and others about mental and behavioral health disorders. This will help you to better recognize these issues and ultimately help resolve them.
  7. Show someone in your everyday interactions that you are available to them as a confidant if they have anything they need to get off their chest.


Depression is just as serious an illness as the flu or heart disease. It’s important to treat mental health concerns with the same diligence as physical concerns. Mental health concerns affect the entire body and can make it harder for someone to heal from physical ailments. To truly be well, we must all take care of all parts of the body ¾physical, emotional, and mental.


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