Schizophrenia can affect all kinds of people, regardless of their gender or age. But of all these variables, this disease has an increased incidence in elderly people. Due to the fact that schizophrenia cannot necessarily be fully cured, but treated and kept under control, people age along with it resulting in a population with many elderly folks dealing with this mental illness.
The symptoms may or may not escalate over time, depending on the willingness of the patient to follow through consistently with their treatment plan. It also depends on the age of onset, meaning the time of life when the symptoms first began manifesting themselves, and the severity of the symptoms themselves. All in all, when it comes to elder patients, the symptoms of schizophrenia appear in a series of different ways.
Treatment for the Elderly with Schizophrenia
The treatment plan is designed according to the type of schizophrenia, as well as the symptoms which vary based on thees types. Some of the treatment modalities are psychiatric, while others are psychological, but a mixture is most appropriate. This is to say that medication and counseling should be employed synergistically. The pharmaceutical approach is based on the use of antipsychotic medications. They are useful in both late onset, chronic schizophrenia, and any psychotic episode. There are a few concerns regarding the side effects and adverse reactions, as well as the potential risks in elders. But fortunately, the medical world has evolved a lot overtime. Therefore, treatments are now being customized by age as well as other personal factors.
The key in designing the ideal treatment for schizophrenia depends on identifying the symptoms, their severity, and the perceptions of the patient. Most patients experience hallucinations and delusions, especially if afflicted by the paranoid schizophrenia type. Some of the more specific signs include strange beliefs, mood cycling, and disorganized cognitions and behaviors.
When it comes to the elderly, the symptoms are just as harsh as at any other age group. But depending on the age of onset, the symptoms and associated behaviors can differ. For example, acute onset schizophrenia is often described by delirium and drug misuse. On the other hand, chronic symptoms beginning at an earlier age are very likely to lead to other disorders, including dementia, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.
Signs of Schizophrenia in Our Elders
Schizophrenic symptoms in the elderly range in frequency between 0.5% and 4.8% of the time awake. On the other hand, many nursing homes equipped to handle schizophrenia have reported an even higher frequency of 10% to 50%. People older than 80 present a prevalence of about 10%. Paranoid ideation seems to be the most expressed symptom. Hallucinations are almost as common in addition to a higher incidence of dementia as well.
Schizophrenia symptoms in elders are sometimes associated with a disruptive behavior as well. Some patients develop an unusual aggression, even if they do not necessarily become violent. Aggression can come in multiple forms. It can be verbal or just generally affect the behavior and thinking as an underlying change in mood. Such problems represent the main concerns of caregivers. If not properly interpreted, they might lead to a continuous neglect. Some people have also reported abuses, hence the necessity of choosing the right care giving service.
There are multiple factors that can increase the incidence of schizophrenia in the elderly. Age is the most important because it underlines a common deterioration in the brain’s physiology. Neurochemical changes coming with age can also stimulate the affection, not to mention the various sensory deficits, cognitive problems, social isolation and other age related issues. Particular medications for other diseases may also stimulate the appearance of schizophrenia.
Many elderly people find themselves in a situation that includes schizophrenia. Whether they’ve grown with it from a normal age of onset or they experienced a late onset, the symptoms combined with other complications related to the normal aging process can make this a very complicated situation indeed. The help of a caregiver specially trained in providing support for people living with schizophrenia will become a must at this time. Seeking the expertise of one of these practitioners is the best actionable advice and should be the first part of your plan of action.