Dementia and Mental Illness: the Effects on Our Senior Loved Ones

Dementia and Mental Illness: the Effects on Our Senior Loved Ones

These are common signs of dementia, but they can be signs of certain mental illnesses as well. It can be hard to differentiate between dementia and mental illness symptoms. 

If your senior loved one has been more forgetful lately, lost interest in hobbies, and their behavior has changed for the worse, you may wonder if they are developing dementia. 

Seniors living alone are at risk of loneliness and depression due to their lack of socialization. So if you see personality changes and emotions that are up and down, consider that they may be exhibiting these new behaviors due to conditions other than dementia. 

To give your senior loved one the best chance at a fulfilled life, they must be diagnosed with the proper condition. Their physician and a therapist can decide if they struggle with a mental illness, medical condition, or memory disease. 

If your senior has a mental illness, many treatments are available to help them get back to their old selves. 

If the verdict is dementia, there are options to help ease the symptoms and discomforts of this memory disease. 

Either way, at this point in your senior’s life, they may fare well in an assisted living or memory care community, where they can socialize and receive extra attention and care. 

Symptoms of dementia

It can be challenging to distinguish between dementia and mental illness because of their overlapping symptoms. If it is dementia, your senior loved one should be diagnosed in the early stages. 

Dementia cannot be stopped or cured, but doctors can treat it and lessen the initial effects. 

Symptoms of dementia may include: 

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Loss of understanding or judgment
  • Personality and emotional changes
  • Decreased ability to make decisions
  • Trouble coping with daily life
  • Difficulty socializing
  • General confusion
  • Problems with speech and understanding language
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing

Mental illnesses

It can be easy for a senior to be misdiagnosed with dementia when they suddenly develop a mental illness. 

This is especially true for seniors who have never struggled with their mental health in the past. Often, once personality changes and erratic behavior occur, family members quickly assume a memory disease is underway.

Before assuming the worst, the best thing you can do for your senior is getting a proper diagnosis, so your senior loved one can receive treatment for the right disease or illness. 

Listed below are a few different mental illnesses commonly found in seniors.

Depression 

Depression is the most common mental disorder found in seniors. This may be due to social isolation, the death of a spouse or child, anxiety over aging, or living with other impairments or health issues. 

Many seniors with depression will begin to show signs of concentration and memory problems, loss of appetite, lack of interest in hobbies or other people, and other symptoms often associated with dementia.

Late-onset bipolar

While most people are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in early adulthood, some may develop this disorder later in life. When this happens, seniors will have manic episodes and delusions and act erratically. 

Since it is uncommon to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in life, these behaviors may sway some to believe dementia or Alzheimer’s are to blame. 

Late-onset schizophrenia

Most adults who develop schizophrenia are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. After that, it is considered late-onset schizophrenia. Seniors with this mental illness will typically have hallucinations and paranoia. 

Medical conditions

Many medical conditions other than dementia and mental illness can cause a senior’s behavior and mental state to change rapidly. 

It is common for seniors with thyroid, liver, kidney, lung, and heart problems to have changes in their mental state. 

Seniors are susceptible to urinary tract and chest infections, which wreak havoc on their bodies and brains. Fortunately, these are easy to diagnose. 

If your senior has begun taking a new medication, you may want to consider their having an adverse reaction to their medication. It’s essential to read the side effects of all medicines that they are taking. 

Metal toxicity, Lyme disease, syphilis, and HIV are a few other conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms.  

Your senior may undergo a blood test, thyroid test, metabolic screening, a urine culture, chest x-ray, EEG, MRI, or PET to get a proper diagnosis. 

With today’s science, many medical conditions and illnesses are treatable and curable. Once cured, your senior’s negative symptoms will go away.

Exceptional memory care for your loved one

At The Kensington Place Redwood City, Our Promise is to love and care for your senior loved one as we do our own family. 

We know how difficult it can be to choose a home for your loved one. We offer comfortable and cozy rooms that will help your seniors adjust and feel right at home. 

Through our life-enrichment activities, your senior will have opportunities to socialize and build friendships, helping them live a more fulfilling life. Loneliness is far too common in seniors, which is why we promote socialization, independence, and love. 

We offer an assisted living community, as well as two memory care neighborhoods. This ensures that our residents are living in a home that meets their specific needs. 

Each of our communities provides rehabilitation, therapy, meditation, a highly-trained chef, a nurse on the premises 24/7, and medication administration. Contact us for a tour or if you are interested in learning more about our warm and welcoming communities.

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