Open Accessibility Menu

Mental Health and Senior Citizens

  • Category: General
  • Posted On:
Mental Health and Senior Citizens

People aged 55 and older are at a greater risk for mental health concerns than any other age group. Approximately 1 out of 5 adults, 55 years and older, suffer from some type of mental health concern. Depression and anxiety are some of the more common mental health issues amongst the elderly.

Aging brings on many life transitions, and often adjusting can be extremely difficult. Untreated mental health issues can lead to a significant decline in quality-of-life. It is important to understand the warning signs and to know that treatment is effective and available.

Causes and risk factors

There are many causes and risk factors for mental illness in seniors. The presence or lack thereof of any of the following does not constitute a diagnosis. The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation highlights several potential triggers such as:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Changes in the environment, such as moving into an assisted living facility
  • Dementia-causing illnesses
  • Loss or illness of a loved one
  • Medication side effects or interactions
  • Physical illnesses or disabilities
  • Poor diet or malnutrition
  • Lack of a support system


Symptoms can often be difficult to recognize and identify in senior citizens. Often, seniors are more likely to report physical complaints rather than psychiatric complaints. Following are potential warning signs that could be indicative of a mental health concern:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty in decision-making
  • Memory loss
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Weight changes
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthless and excessive guilt
  • Irritability
  • Physical complaints such as nausea, upset stomach, constipation, body aches, headaches not otherwise explained by other ailments
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest and/or decreased pleasure in once enjoyable activities
  • Fatigue
  • Energy loss
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depressed mood lasting longer than 2 weeks
  • Changes in dress or appearances
  • Hoarding
  • Difficulty maintaining the household and/or finances
  • Suicidal thoughts and comments


Mental health concerns and illnesses are very treatable regardless of how early a patient receives a diagnosis. Treatment interventions are numerous and can include adjustments to diet and exercise, outpatient services, group therapy, support groups, medication management, and in-patient services. Interventions allow the senior to regain control over their mental health and enhance overall well-being.

Stigmas and fears often cause many seniors to not discuss their concerns with family or friends. This is where advocating on a loved one’s behalf or having them reach out to their primary care physician can be helpful. Primary care physicians can refer them to the right level of care whether it be a support group, therapist, psychiatrist, or emergency room if needed.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any mental health concerns, please call Myrtue Medical Center at 712-755-5130 or come in for a visit. Myrtue Medical Center has been committed to the health and well-being of Harlan and Shelby County residents for over 65 years. We will put our core values of integrity, service, partnership, stewardship, and safety to work for you. We ensure that we will provide the highest quality of care for you or your loved one.