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How to Spot Warning Signs of Mental Illness in Seniors


Even if you live with your senior loved one or visit them daily, some signs of mental illness may not be obvious to you. According to the World Health Organization, around 15% of 60+ adults suffer from a mental disorder. Additionally, neurological conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s can lead to mental illnesses like depression. The sooner you’re able to recognize the warning signs of mental illness in your loved one, the sooner you can begin treatment. Careage Senior Living has compiled a list of these warning signs.

Abrupt Mood Changes

If your loved one suddenly becomes quick to anger or vacillates rapidly from happiness to sadness, it could be a sign of declining mental health. Alternatively, a lack of outward emotion entirely, including sadness, can indicate the onset of depression.

Increased Stress

While stressful events and environments can be causes of depression, it can also work the other way around. People suffering from mental illness can become stressed out or anxious by small life changes or setbacks more readily than those who are mentally healthy. If your loved one seems to overreact to small changes, it could be a sign of mental illness.

Lack of Interest in Hobbies or Activities

If your loved one generally enjoys actively engaging in hobbies or other pursuits and suddenly starts declining invitations and opportunities, it could be a sign that they are struggling mentally. Physical impairments may also be a factor, so a thorough medical check-up may be in order.

Decreased Appetite

If you share meals with your loved one frequently, a drastic decrease in food consumption will be apparent. While some appetite decline is normal as we age, a sudden loss of appetite is a common sign of depression and something to keep an eye out for.

Increased Use of Substances

If you notice your loved one ordering an extra glass of wine more often or drinking more high-alcohol liquor than usual, it may be a sign to check on their mental wellbeing. This can also extend to increased use of sleeping pills, painkillers, or other prescription medications.

It can be difficult to make the journey towards improved mental health for a senior loved one. We hope that this list was able to help you spot a few of the warning signs so you can start this journey sooner rather than later. For more information and tips for seniors and their families, check out the Careage blog.


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