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Serving Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Schuyler, Rock Island, and Warren Counties.

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Seniors commit suicide at a higher rate than any other age group. There are many different reasons for this. They are facing physical health problems, sometimes memory loss, death of loved ones, loss of social interaction, loss of independence, and at times are no longer able to stay in their home. The scariest part about all of this is that it is predicted that 10,000 people per day are expected to turn 65 over the next 15 years and there is a huge shortage of mental health professionals qualified to treat these needs for seniors. An article written by social worker, Paul Downey says “there are currently only 6,000 geriatric social workers nationwide and there is a current need of 32,600 and it is expected to double by the time all the Baby Boomers reach age 65.”

What is mental illness? Mental illness affects thinking and mood, can be acute or chronic, affects every day functioning, and is a brain disease.  

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Signs that an elderly person may be suffering from depression may include:  not wanting to bathe, dress, or want social contact, doesn’t want to do activities, has unexplained or aggravated aches and pains, has memory problems, grieving, could be very fearful or paranoid, or suicidal thoughts.

Anxiety is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Signs that a person may be suffering from anxiety may include: sense of dread, choking, rapid heartbeat, wobbly legs, feeling faint, shaky, chest pain, sweating, racing thoughts and negative thoughts, or worrying.  

Dementia is a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. There are many forms of dementia with Alzheimer’s Disease being one form of dementia. Each form of dementia has different characteristics but most signs of dementia include: cognitive changes such as memory loss, which is usually noticed by a spouse or someone else, difficulty communicating or finding words, difficulty reasoning or problem solving, difficulty handling complex tasks, difficulty with planning and organizing, difficulty with coordination and motor functions, confusion and disorientation. Psychological changes such as personality changes, depression, anxiety, inappropriate behavior, paranoia, agitation, and hallucinations can also been seen.

Elderly people can suffer from one of these illnesses or even all three at the same time. This makes assessment and treatment very complicated. There is a misconception that feeling depressed and anxious is a natural part of the aging process. This is not true and mental health is so important to successful aging that we really must be treating this as well as the physical health problems.  

Western Illinois Home Health Care is a full-service provider whose staff have been certified for treating dementia, anxiety and depression in the home setting. Our Restoring Wholeness at Home Program offers an interdisciplinary approach to treating the whole person including mind, body and soul. If you or someone you know is in need of home care, please call us at 800-228-5993.  

Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care

April 2016

by Amanda Powell

Seniors are in Need of Mental Health Care

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