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Spotting Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Conditions

If you are concerned out someones mental health, it's good to get medical possibilities checked and ruled out first. Physical and mental health can be linked so if there's pain, infection or certain conditions present it can affect the ability to think straight. The following conditions can affect brain function and require medical attention:

Heart disease

Bladder infections

Hypertension – high blood pressure

Diabetes and fluctuating blood sugar levels

High levels of LDL cholesterol

Parkinson’s disease

Hearing issues or other ear problems

Confusion, lack of interest, and forgetfulness can be symptoms of what's considered to be the most common form of mental health issue - depression. Long term depression is a mental health issue that can only become worse if not addressed.

It’s important to get your parent, relative or friend to talk about their fears and anxiety. If it's difficult to get them to open up when they are feeling down, it may be easier for them to talk to a professional who is not emotionally involved.

Eating and drinking well

Malnutrition and dehydration are conditions that are common among elderly people, that can also lead to mental confusion.  When you’re with them it’s easier to make sure that they eat and drink properly, but if they are looking after themselves it can be much more difficult.

Dehydration can happen because someone simply don’t feel thirsty, but not feeling thirsty doesn’t mean they are not dehydrate, drinking plenty of fluids is essential.

Trying to make a decision when you’re hungry, is often more difficult than if you've just eaten, the confusion that can build up when someone is not eating regular meals.  Malnutrition is a major problem amongst the elderly and often it’s simply because they don't have much of a sense of taste and don’t feel hungry.

Not only could someone be under-eating, but their food may be lacking in essential nutrients. Some foods are said to be good for healthy brain function and they include many fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, herbs such as rosemary and sage, the spice turmeric, oily fish, eggs, and extra virgin oil.  Home made soups are a great way to help an elderly person have a nutritious meal.

Mental Health

Keep the brain exercised

Brain cells die off gradually from the age of 60, there are some techniques that can help to sharpen the brain and improve memory. It's much easier to start exercising the brain well before memory loss sets in, but at the very least little changes of habit can provide some exercise for the brain.

For example:

Walking in a different direction to normal.

Not sitting in the same place at the dinner table every day.

If you are right-handed use your left hand for daily activities and vice versa.

For some older people it can be hard to find things that interest or stimulate them but any of the following are helpful:

Watching quiz programmes

Doing crosswords, codewords or Sudoko

Playing chess, bridge, card games, Scrabble or any board games

Video Games

Listening to the radio – particularly when there is discussion, not just music

Listening to audio books

Memorising lists or poems.

Play memory test games online

Taking up a new hobby or doing a course online or at a local centre

Joining social groups and listening to talks

Age UK runs groups to help elderly people meet others like them:

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Mindfulness and meditation

Becoming more aware of your actions and surroundings is a good way to be in the present moment and not worry about the past or future. Mindfulness has become a very popular way of helping people to cope with the stresses of life and depression and incorporates meditation which promotes relaxation. Mindfulness can also help to improve your short and long term memory.

Common types of mental health conditions

  • Anxiety disorder, including social anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD and phobias

  • Depression, including bipolar disorder, SAD and postnatal depression

  • Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, compulsive and binge eating disorder and orthorexia

  • Personality disorders including narcissistic personality disorder and dependent personality disorder

  • Schizophrenia, including paranoid schizophrenia

Exercise for better mental health

The brain benefits from physical exercise, it dosen't need to be anything to challenging to improve your mental health. T’ai chi is particularly recommended for elderly people as it involves learning forms (like dancing) which require focus and concentration. Gentle exercise classes especially for the elderly aim to help concentration and focus, and can be sociable and fun.

Singing has enormous benefits for improving wellbeing and the mind. It's proved effective at involving dementia patients when they often do not communicate. Even when people are confused and their brains aren’t functioning well they can remember the songs they used to like.