Experts estimate that up to 23% of older adults experience different types of mental disorders. Of these, 4% of cases are paranoia in the elderly with the development of persistent fears, anxieties and complaints. To manage paranoia, the elderly need appropriate care and support.
What is paranoia in the elderly?
Delusion is a term used to describe thoughts, concepts, or beliefs that are false and inconsistent with reality. People who are paranoid often lose their judgment. Therefore, they always keep their faith even when those around them have tried to prove what they think is wrong with the best evidence.
Paranoia is defined when false beliefs persist for at least 1 month. It was not accompanied by any other psychiatric symptoms. The disease can affect people of any age, but paranoia in the elderly 60 years and older is most common.
Older adults with paranoia often show fear, complain persistently, and may attack family members (both verbally and physically). Their thoughts are often very irrational, far from reality, and sometimes even ridiculous. However, they have a strong belief that their thinking is right and no one can change this belief.
Paranoid schizophrenia in the elderly is a relatively common form of paranoid schizophrenia. Patients can put themselves and those around them at risk. The severity of the disease tends to increase over time. Therefore, it is important to get care and treatment as soon as possible.
Causes of paranoia in the elderly
Paranoia in the elderly is not a normal part of the aging process, experts say. This is a symptom of other problems that may need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Here are the leading causes of paranoia in the elderly:
– Using stimulants:
Alcohol or drug abuse can often lead to paranoid thoughts. Addiction reverses brain activity. That makes the stimulant of choice the number one priority over everything else.
Paranoia in the elderly can occur at the onset of dementia. In fact, about 40% of people with dementia experience paranoid thoughts. These delusions form when older people try to learn about their declining cognitive functions.
The elderly are very susceptible to health problems. Therefore, it is quite common to have to use many drugs to treat it. Unfortunately, some medications can have potential side effects, such as auditory hallucinations and paranoia.
– Physical illness:
Physical illnesses can have serious consequences for mental function. Severe dehydration, infections, and kidney dysfunction, for example, can all cause symptoms similar to dementia. If paranoid thoughts in the elderly come on suddenly and for no apparent reason, they may have an underlying physical problem that needs to be addressed.
In rare cases, elderly people with depression can also develop paranoia. At this point, paranoia tends to manifest as a strong belief that the individual deserves punishment. To put it simply, paranoid people tend to be self-directed instead of other people.
– Delusional disorder:
Delusional disorder is a rare type of schizophrenia. In rare cases it can be the cause of paranoia in the elderly. Most people with delusional disorder are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 30, but the disorder can occur at any point in life.
Manifestations of delusional disorder in the elderly
Most of the elderly have abnormal, even somewhat strange, psychological manifestations. When you notice an elderly person worrying excessively, thinking a lot, and often getting angry for no reason at not really serious situations, do not rush to assume that they are experiencing paranoia.
First, try to consider the severity and frequency of paranoid thoughts and behaviors. Here are some “red” signs that can help you identify paranoia in the elderly:
- Feelings of caution, nervousness, or being extremely agitated but not easily explained.
- Feeling they are being unfairly mistreated.
- Hear strange noises that they can’t explain. For example, the sound of animals outside or the sound of branches scratching against the windows of the house.
- Seeing animals or people who aren’t actually there (in some cases, this can be a side effect of medication or vision problems).
- Think people are talking behind their backs.
While paranoia is an illness that should be taken seriously, don’t dismiss the worries that an aging parent may have. If they think someone is stealing their money when they misplaced it or someone stole their newspaper even though it hasn’t been delivered that day, take the time to listen and try to help. help them.
Is paranoia in the elderly dangerous?
Experts say that paranoia in the elderly is a serious mental health problem. Patients often have strong beliefs and always think that their thinking is right. No one can refute or explain right and wrong. So they always tend to act according to their paranoid thoughts.
It is extremely dangerous to constantly act on delusional thoughts that are not real. It not only disrupts the patient’s own life, but also negatively affects the family and the whole society. Even patients sometimes get into trouble due to deviant actions.
Moreover, acting on what they paranoid sometimes even endangers themselves and those around them. Paranoia in the elderly without early intervention can progress to severe. In many cases, it also leads to depression.
Statistics show that up to 50% of elderly people with delusional disorder develop depression about 3 to 6 months later. In addition, some people are at increased risk for other psychosocial disorders.
Treatment of paranoia in the elderly
Untreated paranoia in the elderly can alter personality. Moreover, it increases the troubles and troubles in life. Treatment of this condition in the elderly needs to be done with caution.
First of all, it is necessary to establish a relationship between the doctor and the patient. Because at first, the patient may think that the doctor is being manipulated and always intends to harm them. The right treatment combined with proper care can help older people live better for the rest of their lives.
Methods that may be used include:
Psychotherapy is considered the mainstay of treatment for the elderly with paranoia. Psychotherapy can help change distorted beliefs. Treatment usually takes a long time. Moreover, it also requires the specialist to have a lot of practical experience and really understand the psychology of the patient.
It is very easy for the elderly to be paranoid to develop suspicions. They always think that the doctor is being controlled by some force for the purpose of assassinating or harming them. Therefore, changing false beliefs in patients is not easy.
However, psychotherapeutic interventions will help patients better control their emotions and behaviors. In addition, psychologists also help patients become more aware of the role of drugs. From there, try to maintain a long-term and more persistent drug habit in parallel with psychotherapy.
2. Drug use
Currently, there is no drug that has been shown to be optimally effective for paranoia in the elderly. However, medications can be used to relieve symptoms and help people settle down.
The doctor will base on each specific case to consider prescribing appropriate drugs. Especially when the elderly are paranoid accompanied by symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Commonly prescribed medications include:
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Benzodiazepine or non-benzodiazepine
In fact, there are many elderly people who are paranoid about not admitting the disease and refusing to take medicine. At this time, it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital to be administered medication and monitored by the doctor. In case the elderly are paranoid with aggressive behaviors that threaten the health of those around them, they also need inpatient treatment to prevent unfortunate situations from happening.
How to take care of elderly parents with paranoia
Paranoia in the elderly is really not easy to deal with. Whatever is causing the condition, coping is a huge challenge for children. If you are having an elderly parent who is paranoid, here are some tips that may help:
1. Sympathize with parents
When your parents are paranoid, they don’t know who to trust. At the same time, he does not know how to distinguish reality from his paranoid thoughts. In fact, their paranoid thoughts seem to have become reality for them.
Although it is not easy, try to sympathize with your parents. Always remember, they are not intentionally showing paranoia or to get attention. Their paranoid thinking is pathological. It is the children’s sympathy and sharing that is an important factor in the parent’s treatment process.
2. Keep track of your parents’ belongings
Paranoia in the elderly often revolves around their belongings. When they misplace an object, they can accuse you, their caregiver, or anyone else of having entered their home.
If possible, make a list of where their belongings are, especially when you’re ready to throw them away. For example, you can keep a record of who your parents gave jewelry to. Or maybe remember and jot down any other books or keepsakes they’ve donated to charity.
It would be especially helpful if you could ask parents to write these down at their lucid moments so they can see their own handwriting. This can strengthen their beliefs when the “paranoid” state is active.
However, you also need to remember, showing parents the notes and telling the truth does not always convince their beliefs about the truth. But anyway it will help you determine if the accusations of your parents are true or not. Also understand if they are struggling with paranoid thinking.
3. Don’t lose faith
There are several reasons why you should avoid telling your parents they were wrong about your paranoia. The biggest reason is that this can break any trust they have in you.
Nor is there any real benefit to applying reason or logic to parental paranoia. In their minds, trust makes perfect sense. The loss of trust can cause even more panic.
Instead of telling your parents that they are right or wrong, you should say something else that is more appropriate. For example, agreeing that it would be scary to have strangers in your parents’ home. Or when their belongings are stolen, show them that their feelings of anger are justified.
4. No personal charges
In many cases, children become targets for the paranoia of the elderly. However, you need to know that they themselves are experiencing something that affects their thinking. They themselves are also trying their best to understand their confusion.
If you’re struggling to deal with your parents’ accusations, consider pulling out of the situation. Distractions can break your parents’ beliefs about you doing something to harm them.
5. Spend more time with parents
Paranoia in elderly parents is one of the most difficult problems to deal with. Paranoia affects both mood and cognitive function. Therefore you should try to spend more time with your parents.
When you’re with your parents, keep a journal of how you care for them. This makes it easy to see your parents’ changes through each milestone. It also gives you valuable data to help your doctor more accurately assess your treatment progress.
Paranoia in the elderly is a challenging problem for many families today. If your parents are in this situation, seek the help of a mental health professional soon. In addition, the care and attention of children is also said to be a very important part of the treatment process for paranoia for elderly parents.