- Schizophrenia, characterized by disturbed thinking and social withdrawal, affects young adults and seniors.
- Factors like age-related changes, existing medical conditions, social isolation, medication side effects, and genetics make seniors susceptible.
- Seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hypertension have a higher schizophrenia risk.
- Being socially isolated or on certain medications can increase schizophrenia risk in seniors.
- Treatments include creating a support system, limiting stress, and seeking professional help.
Schizophrenia affects nearly 1% of the global population and is a mental illness that can affect any age group. However, it is often considered a disease that predominantly affects young adults, particularly those in their 20s. However, many do not know seniors are also susceptible to this condition. A significant number of schizophrenia cases occur in the elderly population. Here’s what you need to know about schizophrenia, why elderlies are susceptible to it, and how you can care for them in the future.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by the breakdown of thought processes, social withdrawal, and delusions. This often results in difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy. Symptoms can include auditory hallucinations, paranoia, disorganized thoughts, and behavior. It affects how people interact with others and view their environment.
Why Elderlies are Susceptible to Schizophrenia
There are various reasons why seniors are susceptible to this disease. Here are some of those reasons:
1. Age-Related Changes
As people age, their body changes, including reducing brain weight and volume. These changes can affect the brain’s function, leading to cognitive decline and an increased risk for schizophrenia. Studies have shown that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia than those without these conditions.
2. Existing Medical Conditions
Seniors with existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension are likelier to develop schizophrenia. These conditions can affect the blood vessels in the brain, leading to reduced blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient supply. This can cause damage to brain cells, leading to schizophrenia.
3. Social Isolation
Social isolation is a significant risk factor for schizophrenia, particularly in seniors. As people age, many seniors often experience social isolation for various reasons, such as retirement, the death of friends and family members, and reduced mobility. This loneliness and isolation can exacerbate the symptoms of schizophrenia or even trigger its onset.
4. Medication Side Effects
Many seniors take medications for various medical conditions, and some of these medications can have side effects that significantly increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. Medications that affect the brain’s chemical balance, such as anticholinergics and antipsychotics, can trigger or worsen schizophrenia symptoms in seniors.
Although genetics is not a significant factor in schizophrenia’s overall causation, it can still increase the risk for seniors. If there is a family history of schizophrenia, seniors are more likely to develop the condition than those without a family history.
How to Treat a Senior With Schizophrenia
If you’re caring for an elderly loved one diagnosed with schizophrenia, there are ways to help them manage the symptoms. Here are a few tips that can help:
1. Create a Support System
Creating a family and friends support system can benefit seniors with schizophrenia. This network of people will provide emotional and practical support during times of need. It’s also important to integrate professional help into that support system. A local home health aide can provide companionship, help with activities of daily living, and ensure the senior gets the medical care they need.
2. Stay Up-to-Date on Medications
Many seniors are prescribed medication to reduce schizophrenia symptoms. As such, you or a family member must monitor and keep your loved one’s medications up-to-date. Remember to always consult with a doctor before changing medications or dosages.
3. Make Healthy Living Habits a Priority
Encouraging healthy living habits can have positive effects on seniors with schizophrenia. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and sleeping well at night. All of these help boost mental health and reduce the risk of relapse.
4. Limit Stress
Stress is a significant trigger for schizophrenia symptoms, so limiting the stress your loved one experiences is essential. Try to keep their surroundings peaceful and free of clutter, provide them with activities that can reduce stress levels (e.g., reading, listening to music), and spend quality time with them regularly. Setting clear boundaries and expectations for the family members and the seniors is also essential.
5. Know When To Seek Professional Help
If your loved one exhibits severe symptoms or worsens over time, you may need professional help. This could include mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists who can provide treatment plans to help manage the condition. Additionally, they may need medical assistance from doctors or nurses who can monitor their physical health and administer medication.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects seniors just as much as young adults. It’s essential to be aware of the risk factors associated with this condition so you can be better prepared to care for your elderly loved one. Following the tips above and seeking professional help when necessary, you can ensure that your senior loved one receives the best care possible.