Older adults make crucial contributions to society by serving as heads of family members and actively participate in the workforce. Whilst a majority of them have good physical and mental health, others experience a wide variety of health problems such as diabetes, hearing loss, osteoarthritis among others (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The State of Aging and Health in America 2013, 2013). Unfortunately, they are likely to experience more than one condition at the same time as they age further. Studies show over twenty percent of people aged above sixty years suffer from a mental health problem or a neurological disorder. Indeed, this statistic is scary and alarming. In addition, both older people and mental health professionals under-identify the problem and its corresponding implications. To this end, this paper seeks to address the relative association of mental health disorders’ severity, chronicity and psychiatric conditions of health status among older adults or the aging population.
First, it is noteworthy that the nature and magnitude of a mental health problem depends on the risk factors causing it. Although older people experience life stressors that are common to other people, certain life stressors are specific to this group. For instance, older people tend to experience a significant decline in capacities to walk, hear, and see among other functional problems that are rare to find among healthy individuals. Notably, these problems act as major life stressors and may result in both mild and severe mental health problems. Other stressors such as loneliness, isolation and psychological distress increase the severity of the mental health problem.
Unquestionably, healthy individuals are also venerable to a wide variety of life stressors that posse a huge risk to their mental health. However, these stressors do not have an equal impact as older adults are more vulnerable compared to healthy individuals due to various reasons. First, a majority of older people are at a higher risk of suffering from other severe problems such as heart diseases due to depression and other mental health problems such as dementia and extreme anxiety(“Mental Health Matters: Depression and Anxiety in Older Adults”, 2016). Unlike healthy individuals who can easily avoid these health problems through different interventions, older adults tend to have limited choices to avoid them.
Second, an aging population is vulnerable to elder abuse from other age groups. Research shows that one in every six older adults suffer from elder abuse. This form of abuse can occur in the form of physical, psychological, financial, verbal and sexual abuse. Regardless of the type of abuse, older adults should not be abused as they may affect their health. Normally, elder abuse leads to severe and long-lasting psychological implications that may be irreversible if appropriate measures are not taken.
Today, the United States boasts of efficient public health and advancement in medical treatment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The State of Aging and Health in America 2013, 2013). Consequently, this development has led to an increase in life expectancy in the country. Particularly, US has gained thirty years in life expectancy within one century. Many of the chronic health problems such as diarrhea, enteritis and sexually transmitted diseases are no longer major health risks to Americans. In addition, these diseases are also not among the leading causes of death to any age group in the country. Unfortunately, other diseases have continued to affect people by causing more deaths. Currently, heart disease is considered a chronic and a leading cause of death, especially among the aging population. Although other health problems such as cancer, Alzheimer and stroke are also skyrocketing as people age, heart disease has proven to a major cause of these and risk factor to other chronic problems (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The State of Aging and Health in America 2013, 2013). For instance, it is unquestionable that an increase in mental health problems is attributed to the rise in these chronic illnesses.
For a long time, researchers have attempted to establish the relationship between chronicity and severity of the mental health problems among the elderly population. In an attempt to understand this health menace, they have used different health problems such as depression and anxiety as they are relatively common among the aging population (Darrow et al., 2016). This assessment has also been carried out to analyze the impact of mental health between men and women. From these studies, researchers have found out that the implication of a mental health disorder determines their chronicity and severity. For instance, depression is perceived as mild or severe based on its impact on the affected person. This mental disorder has also been closely linked to an increased rate of suicides and deterioration of social and cognitive functioning (Darrow et al., 2016). In addition, depression worsens a patient’s physical health causing exclusion and bereavement. Therefore, a mental health problem is termed as mild if the effects are in small magnitude and severe if they are huge.
Conversely, anxiety problems can also be classified based on the magnitude of the health problem (“Mental Health Matters: Depression and Anxiety in Older Adults”, 2016). Notably, this mental disorder has proven to be worse among men compared to women. Mortality rates among men especially after heart surgery have increased as panic attacks increase the risk high mortality rates and cardiovascular problems. Subsequently, this shows that the corresponding effects of a mental anxiety disorder determine its chronicity and severity. Therefore, even though mental disorders have different risk factors, it is evident that their implications determine their chronicity and severity.
As explained earlier, mental health disorders are common among elderly persons. Unfortunately, most of these conditions end up undetected hence causing adverse implications to the affected persons due to lack of proper attention at the appropriate time. Normally, mental disorders burden the health system, impair the quality of older persons’ life, disturb rehabilitation and induce functional disability. Other diseases and health problems are also common as people age. This challenge presents more problems as the prognosis of a mental disorder becomes more dependent on other somatic diseases.
Depressive syndromes are common among older adults. Usually, this disorder starts as a minor subsyndromal depression before it escalates to a fully developed mental disorder. Depression is surrounded by several misconceptions that hinder a majority of the affected persons from seeking the right treatment. For instance, most people believe that late-life depression is a normal feature of an aging person. Unfortunately, this misconception encourages depression’s chronicity and disabling illnesses (Hölzel, Härter & Hüll, 2017). Evidently, this shows that old age depression is both under-recognized and treated. The difference in treatment of this health problem has led to a notable difference between reactive and endogenous depression. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the source and magnitude of depression to avoid adverse implications.
There exists a wide variety of beliefs and ideologies regarding the source of depression among older adults. However, all these perceptions concur that depression is caused by certain risk factors that can be controlled through meditation and other forms of treatment. First, poor physical health is believed to be a leading cause of depression among the aging population. Personal history of depression, comorbid organic syndromes, and other health-related factors have also shown a significant relationship with depression incidents. Normally, old age is closely related to stress and somatic disorders as individuals fear to suffer from life-threatening diseases. In addition, diseases such as stroke, diabetes, and heart problems also have high depressive comorbidity depression disorder. Health care providers should understand all the aspects of a physical health problem and its relationship with depression to ensure patients receive essential primary care before the onset or persistence of depression.
Although most people believe depression among older adults is a common part of an aging process, it is noteworthy that this psychiatric disorder is effectively treatable among the elderly just like it is to younger patients. For instance, older adults can use antidepressants to contain acute depression. Modern antidepressants have selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that are suitable for older adults. They are used to reduce the effects of depression as older persons tend to be vulnerable than younger patients. Lastly, even though depression is common among older adults, it should not be perceived as a normal problem. Instead, it is advisable to consider the different treatment methods to improve patients’ lives and prevent other implications such as suicide (Hölzel, Härter ; Hüll, 2017).
Anxiety disorders are also common during later life. Notably, this disorder burdens the health care system more than depression. Normally, this challenge is due to the fact diagnosis of anxiety disorders only works among young patients. Once an older person is established to have an anxiety disorder, there are high chances the patient is also suffering from comorbid conditions. Usually, women have a high tendency of suffering from anxiety disorders compared to men. However, this association changes once the aging process starts to take place. Just like in depression, antidepressants are arguably the best medication and treatment of choice. Moreover, treatment of anxiety disorders has a lot of cost-effectivenesses as patients receive different medical services. Besides, it is evident that patients should be frequently diagnosed to assess the presence of other comorbid conditions.
Currently known as dementias, dementia is chronic mental disorders that have necessitated the introduction of geriatric care units in the health care system. This disorder is acquired through a syndrome that damages the brain. The frequency of this health problem is relative to on an individual’s age. Older adults diagnosed with dementia have been reported to be suffering from Alzheimer dementia whose prevalence increases with old age. In other words, the older the patient, the high the chance of suffering from different types of dementia. Although demographics, lifestyle factors, and somatic cases are major risk factors, genetic factors play a significant role in most cases of dementia.
Mental Health Disorders and Normal Aging Process
For a long time, people have mistaken various mental health disorders for the normal aging process. One of the most mistaken mental problems is depression. Usually, older adults tend to experience difficulty in concentrating, remembering small details, have insomnia, extreme sleepiness, loss of interest and loss of appetite (Smith, Segal & Robinson, 2018). Well, even though these features are commonly perceived as normal among the aging population, they are also significant indicators or symptoms of depression. This assumption has discouraged both patients and caregivers from seeking appropriate health attention as they see things as usual, yet they are not. In most cases, caregivers do not differentiate between signs of an aging person and those of an individual suffering from depression.
Stigma is also a commonly mistaken symptom in mental health. Normally, a stigma exists in two major forms. The first type of stigma arises from a perceived perception or inside an individual whereas an actual stigma develops from society. Therefore, it is vital to understand the type of stigma that affects a patient to prescribe the right treatment. Perceived stigma from an individual does not pose a significant risk of developing a mental problem. On the other hand, an actual stigma arises from mental disorders such as depression. Consequently, proper diagnosis prevents mistakes during treatment as well as reduces the demand of caregivers and toll on health services.
Lastly, it is evident that mental disorders pose a huge risk of disabling a patient if appropriate measures are not taken to curb the situation. Today, chronic mental health problems are among the leading causes of deaths. Unfortunately, these problems are both under-diagnosed and under-treated. However, healthcare providers are adopting different methods to control this trend. For instance, they have adopted proper diagnosis procedures that assess the actual problem ailing a patient. Normally, this step provides essential information that can be used to prescribe the most effective medication or treatment strategy.