Mental health disorders affect every age group and demographic. But nursing home residents are particularly susceptible to developing mental health issues, making it one of the biggest concerns for residents across the country. According to The National Institutes of Health (NIH), between “65% and 90% of nursing home residents have a mental disorder.” These disorders develop for many reasons, and can present in a variety of ways as well. As advocates for the health and wellbeing of nursing home residents, it’s important to know the right information and statistics, as well as what to look out for.
Mental Health Among Residents
Nursing home residents are typically older American which means they are dealing with all the aspects of aging, as well as other diseases and disorders, as well as life and environment changes out of their control. All of these circumstances often lead to depression and anxiety among senior citizens. Additionally, any loss of independence can influence mental health along with certain medications. Altogether, senior citizens and nursing home residents in particular, are highly susceptible to the development of mental health issues that should be addressed. But often aren’t.
Another area of concern when it comes to mental health is that disorders can also develop as a result of emotional abuse. Though it can more often be attributed to life changes, the loss of loved ones, and illness, signs of emotional abuse and mental health disorders look very similar. And while nursing home staff are trained in physical and medical care, they are not often trained in mental health care and so may not be able to properly address mental health concerns.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common mental health disorders that present in nursing home residents are anxiety and depression. It is important to carefully observe loved ones for certain signs, though be aware that those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia can exhibit these signs as well.
The most common signs of depression are:
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment
The most common signs of anxiety are:
- Depressive symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fear of falling and becoming injured
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbances
Why This Matters & What To Do
Of course, this matters because mental health issues may be ignored in older adults, simply because it can be attributed to something happening in their life. This, however, does not mean it is not serious or cannot develop into a serious health concern with thoughts of suicide or even attempts to take one’s life. Mental health is just as important in older adults as it is for anyone else and should not be ignored. It can also be a result of medications which can be changed, or it can be easily treated with medication. Either way, a doctor should be consulted and the resident should receive a thorough evaluation that addresses all of their concerns.
Two of the best things for you to do for a loved one experiencing a mental health crisis is to a) make sure it is addressed, b) be there. Warding off loneliness is certainly very helpful for anyone diagnosed with depression or anxiety, especially nursing home residents. Become an essential caregiver for them, or visit them as often as possible. Additionally, it is always a good idea to bring up your concerns with the facility staff to make sure they are aware of the resident’s condition and can help in any way they can.
Please also explore these resources to help you and your loved one properly address mental health concerns:
- Suicide Hotline: call 988
- Help for Mental Illness Webpage
- Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255, press “1” or text 838255
- Crisis Text Line: text HELLO to 741741
- Healthy Aging Resource Page
- Behavioral Health Resource Finder
- Older Veteran Behavioral Health Resources
If you or a loved one have been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse call Gharibian Law (877-875-1119) today for a free consultation and the best legal representation.