Assessing the mental health needs of older people
The main mental health problems
Mental health problems in later life can be grouped into four main categories:
- Depression and anxiety
- Other mental health problems
- Drug and alcohol problems
For a more detailed account, see Research Summary Chapter 3 (443kb PDF).
- Depression is the most common mental health problem in later life.
- Dementia is the next most common.
- Mental health problems are under-identified by professionals and older people themselves, and older people are often reluctant to seek help. So many older people experience delay before they are offered support.
If you are an older person reading this, or you care for an older person:
Try not to be worried by the symptoms and problems described in this section. Remember, although mental health problems in later life are relatively common, most older people are not affected. Use the organisations listed elsewhere in this section to get more information, and if you are still worried about any symptoms, speak to your doctor.
- Maintain a positive approach (see also Mental health and well-being - what you can do).
- Find out as much as you can about mental health in later life. Ask for training, for instance in dementia awareness, for you and your colleagues.
- Make links with the specialist services in your area for older people with mental health needs. Find out their criteria for referrals. Ask for their help or advice if you feel you need it.
- Try to put yourself in the position of the older person - how would these symptoms make you feel? Would you be frightened, worried? How would you want to be treated?