5 Warning Signs an Older Adult May Need Help

Aging brings many changes, but depression shouldn’t be one of them. In fact, depression is not a normal part of aging. When conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse go untreated, the risk of suicidal thoughts increases, particularly among older adults. Often, suicide in this age group is linked to depression following bereavement or the loss of physical health and independence.

Warning signs of distress in older adults can sometimes be subtle or quite obvious. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety disorders often go undiagnosed in this age group and can significantly impact both mental and physical health. Untreated depression can lead to various physical health issues, including:

  • Chronic Pain: Depression can intensify the perception of pain, making conditions like arthritis or back pain more debilitating.
  • Heart Disease: There's a higher risk of heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.
  • Weakened Immune System: Depression can lower immunity, making older adults more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Digestive issues, such as stomach aches, cramps, and nausea, can worsen.
  • Sleep Disorders: Insomnia or excessive sleeping can further harm overall health.

Trusting your instincts when identifying signs of distress is crucial, as it empowers friends, family, and caregivers to take action, providing timely support and interventions. Here are five critical signs that may indicate underlying issues, warranting further attention and care:

  1. Physical and Health Changes

Look out for changes in mobility, balance, or strength, along with sudden weight loss or changes in appetite. Additionally, frequent falls, unexplained bruises, or missed medical appointments may indicate health issues or difficulty managing medical conditions.

  1. Emotional and Behavioral Shifts

Noticeable changes in mood such as sadness, anxiety, irritability, or unusual behaviors can signal emotional distress. Agitation, excessive fear, worry, or increased paranoia are also red flags.

  1. Cognitive Decline and Medication Mismanagement

Memory loss, confusion, difficulty concentrating, or making decisions could signal cognitive decline or dementia. Additionally, forgetting to take medications, overdosing, or underdosing can indicate difficulties in managing medications.

  1. Financial and Home Environment Issues

Unpaid bills, reckless spending, or difficulty managing finances may indicate cognitive decline or financial troubles. A messy or cluttered home, neglecting household chores, or inability to perform routine tasks could suggest physical or cognitive limitations.

  1. Social Withdrawal and Unusual Communication

Lack of interest in socializing, decreased communication with friends and family, or avoiding social gatherings may signal loneliness or depression. Additionally, confusion in conversation, trouble finding the right words, or repeating stories could suggest cognitive decline or memory problems.

By recognizing these signs, you can help ensure that older adults receive the support and care they need.

What Can You Do?

If you notice a loved one showing behaviors or issues indicative of distress, it’s important to take proactive steps to support them. (Note: If you feel your loved one is in immediate danger of harming themselves, do not leave them alone. Contact emergency services or take them to the nearest emergency room for immediate help).

Here are some ways you can take action:

Start a Conversation: Approach your loved one with care and concern. Choose a quiet, private setting and express your observations in a non-judgmental way. For example, "I've noticed you seem more withdrawn lately, and I'm worried about you. How are you feeling?"

Listen Actively: Give them your full attention and listen without interruption. Validate their feelings and let them know it’s okay to talk about what they’re going through. Avoid offering solutions too quickly; instead, focus on understanding their perspective.

Encourage Professional Help: Suggest that they see a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation. Offer to help them make an appointment with a doctor, mental health professional, or counselor. If they’re reluctant, gently remind them that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Stay Involved: Check in regularly to see how they’re doing. Your continued support can make a big difference. Offer to accompany them to appointments or assist with daily activities if they’re struggling.

Educate Yourself: Learn more about the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as effective treatments. This knowledge can help you provide better support and understand what your loved one is experiencing.

Connect Them with Resources: Provide information on local support groups, mental health services, and crisis hotlines. Encourage them to reach out to these resources for additional support.

Encourage Healthy Habits: Support them in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy and to stay socially connected.

Take Care of Yourself: Supporting someone with mental health issues can be challenging. Ensure you have your own support system and practice self-care to maintain your well-being.

Consider Technology Solutions: Livindi products and services can be invaluable in providing remote monitoring and support for older adults. Livindi offers video calling, health monitoring, and emergency alerts, allowing caregivers to stay connected, observe surroundings and appearance via video calls, and track unusual changes in activity or behavior to promptly respond to any concerns.

    Additionally, Livindi’s team of licensed therapists provides mental health assessments and teletherapy services. The Livindi tablet and other Livindi technology prescribed as part of a loved one’s care plan are often covered by insurance, including Medicare, making them accessible and affordable. This is especially useful for those who have difficulty accessing traditional in-person care.

    Take the first step in ensuring your loved one’s well-being by exploring Livindi’s teletherapy services today. Call us at (508) 416-6030 to arrange an assessment to determine eligibility for teletherapy services and Livindi products covered by insurance. Learn more at www.livindi.com.