8 symptoms of mental illness in the elderly

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indications of mental illness

The world’s population is rapidly ageing and India too is not untouched by this phenomenon. India too is undergoing a demographic transition and in the coming years, it is expected that the aged population of 60 years and above will increase drastically.

With an increase in the proportion of the elderly population, the geriatric mental health is bound to pose a massive challenge for the government, since a large section of the society still believes that the various signs of mental health issues in older adults are a regular part of the normal ageing process.

The elderly population of India is today facing a huge burden of various mental disorders due to various factors like ageing of the brain, breakdown of the traditional family support system and other socio-economic factors. The positive aspect about elderly mental illness is that a large majority of geriatric mental illnesses can be accurately diagnosed and effectively treated if help is sought early.  

Now, before we point out the various symptoms of mental illness in the elderly it is important to understand what is mental health and mental illness.

what is mental health?

Mental health in very simple terms refers to the state of an individual’s psychological, behavioural and emotional well-being. The state of good mental health not only refers to the absence of any mental illnesses but also the individual’s capability to realise his potential, cope with the stresses of life, ability to learn, to feel and manage a range of emotions and the ability to form and manage the relationship with others.    

Mental illness or mental health disorders, on the other hand, refers to the health conditions that negatively affect the way we think, feel, behave and interact with others. Often the terms mental health and mental illness are used interchangeably, however, there is a difference. Mental health is not equivalent to mental illness, although poor mental health can lead to mental illness. Some of the most common mental health illnesses found in the elderlies include dementia, depression, anxiety disorders and severe cognitive impairment among others.

factors that directly or indirectly negatively contribute to older adults mental health 

  • Retirement – Retirement is one of the most significant social factors that strongly affects a working individual. Retirement brings about a sense of dependency which is not pleasant for a senior person. Such people also witness a dip in their self-esteem, self-confidence and a loss of sense of authority leading to depression and anxiety.
  • Change in Family Systems – With new millennials opting for nuclear families, the traditional family structure serving as a support system has also reduced leading the elderly feeling lonely, left behind or under-appreciated leading to various kinds of mental health issues.
  • Financial Issues – This is also one of the major factors that negatively affect the mental well-being of a person. With a loss of a steady source of income elderlies increasingly feel a sense of helplessness and dependency, which also affects their quality of life.   

8 symptoms of mental illness in older adults

To help you recognise the various signs of mental disability among older adults for the early detection and subsequent treatment, we have pointed out eight of the most common symptoms of mental illness in older adults. These symptoms of mental illness in older adults are as follows;

  1. Confusion, disorientation and problems concentrating or decision making
  2. Changes in the weight – increase or decrease in the appetite
  3. Memory Loss, especially short term memory problems
  4. Unexplained fatigue and energy loss or trouble sleeping/ sleep changes
  5. Social withdrawal – loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
  6. Feeling depressed for longer than two weeks
  7. A feeling of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt and helplessness
  8. General disinterest in living or thoughts of suicide  

diagnosis of mental disability in older adults

When it comes to the diagnosis of mental disability in older adults, in majority of the cases it goes under-diagnosed. The senior population themselves don’t perceive the need for mental health care and seldom bring up the concern with their primary health giver who can then direct them to a psychologist for early detection and treatment.

As such, it is very important for us to understand the difference between daily forgetfulness and persistent cognitive or memory loss or any other signs of mental problems amongst our older adults.  

Besides the above pointed symptoms of mental illness, if you spot changes in the appearance or way of dressing of your loved one or if they are facing trouble handling finances or working with numbers, don’t simply ignore them as old age problems, rather take notice, talk to them and get them the necessary consultation from a doctor. Always remember, early detection is key to the treatment of varied older adult mental health problems.

Patient Testimonials


Geeta Baliga


I booked a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment from Portea and was very happy with the service provided by Dr.Shashikant and Health Managers-Jayam Samlin and Mereena Jose who visited me. The team was very cooperative and followed up with me well.

M. J. Aga


It was through Health Manager Saba over 2 years back, that I first came to know about Portea. Saba has been extremely courteous & helpful to me & my wife .
Through her we both have availed Portea services like physiotherapy, Doctor visits, ECG at our home. She has been our one-window approach to Portea ever since.
I think Portea is fortunate in having Saba as one of their Health Managers. I hope she will continue to help us by arranging for a good General Physician, in our area, to visit us in emergencies. We both are too old to go to Doctors’ Dispensaries. We are willing to pay for their visits. Thank you




I would like to convey my appreciation for the commitment and dedication that Health Manager Hema has towards my family. I am glad to say that I feel quite relaxed when it comes to my father’s Health as she serves as a single point of contact for any of our requirements.
I would also like to Thank Portea for giving such a good experience by providing timely services through Health Manager Hema.