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Assessing an Older Adult’s Mental Health Needs

Change in mood or behavior can signal a serious matter

Article Highlights

  • Depression vs. Dementia
  • Know the best practices and treatments
  • Don't ignore remarks about suicide
  •  Get your loved one evaluated and treated. Social workers at the area agency on aging can conduct a mini mental status exam. To find your local agency, click here. Or consult a geriatric psychiatrist, a doctor trained to recognize and treat mental illnesses in older people. Visit the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation’s website to find a geriatric psychiatrist near you.

Preventing Suicide

Older Americans are more likely to die by suicide than any other population in the country. Those suffering from depression are at greatest risk. Do not ignore remarks about suicide, especially if there’s a history of suicide in your family. Report them to your loved one’s doctor, and encourage your relative to seek treatment immediately. Firearms can pose an increased risk to suicidal older adults. If there are firearms in the home, remove them as soon as possible. For more advice, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255. All calls are confidential.

Lastly, if you don’t live nearby ask friends and neighbors to look in on your loved one more often. Also, work with the area agency on aging to develop a support plan for this person.

Maintaining Your Mental Health
You may find that caring for a loved one takes a toll on your own mental health. Make a point of keeping stress in check. Joining a caregiver support group can help.

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