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Aging Body, Aging Mind: How to Spot the Signs of an Aging Mind

Sep 01, 2009

Watching a loved one grow older can be one of the most difficult things to endure. While deeper set lines on the face and more grey hairs on the head are the obvious signs of aging, it’s important that caregivers take note of mental health as well as physical health. Recent studies have shown that as many as four out of 10 seniors with physical illnesses are depressed. Many seniors face multiple medical problems, the loss of loved ones and the inability to work, drive and live independently.

“Seniors today are not only fighting depression, but also facing anxiety, cognitive impairment, mood disorders and behavioral problems associated with memory loss,” said Dheeraj Mahajan, M.D., geriatrics medical director at Weiss Memorial Hospital and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Sadly, psychiatric illness in older adults is often missed, which is why it’s important that friends and family look for warning signs in their loved ones.”

With 35 million Americans 65 or older—a number expected to rise rapidly as the baby boomers grow older—Weiss Memorial Hospital has some helpful hints on how to spot an aging mind in your loved one:

  • Forgetting once familiar things: Seniors with early onset dementia often forget things once familiar like paying bills on time, or knowing how to get to the store or where to find common objects. Eventually, driving, recalling names of family and friends, and performing everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning will become difficult.
  • Trouble concentrating on tasks: It’s not uncommon for a senior to have difficulty completing a sentence or forgetting the subject of conversation. Other symptoms include having trouble finding their way around in familiar surroundings or remembering the date or season.
  • Sudden change in personality: If your loved one was once warm and caring and is now easily aggravated or upset, this may be a sign of a mental disorder. Mood swings or other sudden change in personality can indicate a changing mind in addition to a changing body.

If your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your physician immediately.