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Leading U.S. Expert Offers Ten Warning Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Problems in Elderly
Date:8/3/2009

RESEDA, Calif., Aug. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- As people age, the potential exists for those years to be the most rewarding and fulfilling time of their lives. However, major illness, retirement, the death of a spouse, and a shrinking circle of friends all may, in some cases, contribute to increased levels of stress and depression in the elderly. For that reason the chief of geropsychiatry for the Los Angeles Jewish Home - the largest single-source provider of senior residential housing in the western United States - is offering seniors and their loved ones 10 warning signs that may trigger the need for assistance with mental health issues.

"Though many seniors have developed positive coping skills and emotional maturity, others may experience Alzheimer's disease, addictions, anxiety disorders and depression," said Dr. Nitin Nanda of the Home. "Deteriorating physical health can quickly change a happy retirement into a period of confusion, fear and chronic pain. When disabilities occur later in life, individuals who were involved in working, socializing and traveling may suddenly face lower incomes, reduced mobility, and dependence on caregivers and assistive devices. These changes can have a dramatic effect on seniors' mental and emotional well-being."

As a result of this growing need in the country the Home has unveiled the Auerbach Behavioral Health Unit dedicated to treating depression and other acute psychiatric needs in seniors. The 10-bed voluntary unit incorporates the Jewish Home's nationally acclaimed model of comprehensive, high-quality treatment by attending to the needs of the whole person - mind, body and sprit.

Here are Dr. Nanda's ten signs that show a senior you care about might need help:

  1. Depressed mood or sadness lasting more than two weeks.
  2. Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, hopelessness, helplessness.
  3. Decreased ability to think, concentrate or make decisions.
  4. Repeated thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts.
  5. Social withdrawal, change in activity level, loss of interest in hobbies. Irritability, quarrelsomeness.
  6. Loss or increase in appetite or weight change.
  7. Sleep changes such as insomnia or sleeping more than usual.
  8. Change in appearance or standard of dress.
  9. Aches, pains and other physical problems that cannot otherwise be explained.
  10. Alcohol, drug abuse and/or misuse.

"Depression and other types of mental health issues can be sensitively and successfully treated," Dr. Nanda said. "However, it is critical to recognize the need in a timely way and be aware of the various signs." Dr. Nanda said if a problem is suspected, an individual should:

  • Talk with your physician, explain how you feel, and describe what is not normal for you. Have a list of all medications and vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements.
  • Talk to a trusted friend, family member or spiritual advisor.
  • Don't be shy or embarrassed. Explain how you feel. Remind your doctors and pharmacist about your medical history.
  • Ask for instructions in writing.
  • Contact general resources like the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation at GMHFonline.org or the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry at AAGPonline.org.

Founded in 1912, the world-renowned Los Angeles Jewish Home is one of the foremost multi-level senior-living communities in the United States and the largest single-source provider of senior housing in Los Angeles. In total, the Home annually serves more than 1,700 seniors through its extraordinary continuum of services. Each year, more than 1,200 women and men are cared for in-residence on two village campuses, with services including independent-living "Neighborhood Home" accommodations, residential care, skilled nursing care, short-term rehabilitative care, acute psychiatric care, and Alzheimer's disease and dementia care. Another 500 seniors are served through the Home's community-based programs, which includes Skirball Hospice and community clinics. The Home is a nonprofit organization that relies upon donations from individuals, corporations and foundations to continue its remarkable work. Further information regarding the Home can be found online at www.jha.org or by calling 818-757-4407.


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SOURCE Los Angeles Jewish Home
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