Behavioral disorders are usually associated with juvenile delinquency. However, older people may also experience symptoms of behavioral disorders. Behavioral disorders in older people often become a problem because they are harmful for themselves and those around them. Behavioral disorders in the elderly are associated with dementia, among other things. There is a need for a better understanding of what behavioral disorders are in the elderly and how to treat these psychogeriatric problems.
What Is Behavioral Disorder?
The American Psychological Association defines a behavioral disorder as any pattern of behavior that repeatedly or persistently violates social rules or norms, seriously interferes with an individual’s activities, or causes anxiety to others. There are several types of behavioral disorders in children and adolescents, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and autism.
Behavioral disorders in children and adolescents should be identified and treated as soon as possible by a psychologist or psychiatrist. It is because there is a risk of developing mental disorders that have a negative impact on life. Behavioral disorders in the elderly are not a direct consequence of the behavioral problems that occur in childhood and adolescence. However, behavioral disorders in older people are equally detrimental to themselves and those around them.
Behavioral disorders in older people are usually associated with the aging process, especially with impaired cognitive abilities. Behavioral disorders in the elderly include irritability, forgetfulness, apathy, excessive anxiety, delusions, and unstable emotions. This psychogeriatric problem is a major challenge and one of several factors that cause daily stress for caregivers or family members.
What Is the Difference Between Behavioral Disorders and Personality Disorders?
Behavioral disorders are different from personality disorders, but they are both part of psychogeriatrics. The word “personality” refers to a set of characteristics or traits that develop as a person grows into adulthood and that are different for each individual. These qualities include ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Therefore, with age, a person’s personality can change, even with a disorder. Personality disorders are disorders of a person’s personality that can make it difficult for them to live with themselves and/or others. This disorder also adversely affects their functioning and social relationships.
Elderly people are susceptible to personality disorders for several reasons, including:
- Losing an important person in life
- Undergo long-term care
- Loss of position, role or job
- Difficulty adapting to the aging process
- Drug use
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Types of personality disorders that are common in old age include obsessive-compulsive disorder, avoidance, and paranoia.
How Should Families Deal with Behavioral Disorders?
Due to the behavioral disorders, older people may act very differently from themselves in the previous stage of life. For instance, instead of being calm as before, they would start to complain about anything. Families may find it difficult to cope with this drastic change. One thing that is important is that the family should not assume that the disorder is normal and must be caused by dementia.
Upon seeing signs of behavioral problems in the elderly, the family should immediately take them to a geriatrician for an examination. The doctor will perform a series of examinations and provide guidance on how to treat older people with behavioral problems.
Try to identify what caused the change in behavior. For example, if an older person suddenly gets grumpy, it may be a way for them to tell that they are ill, upset, or scared. Perhaps there is a certain thing that triggers the act of behavioral disorders, such as the presence of certain people that they don’t like.
Create the most comfortable environment as much as possible and continue to interact with the elderly, even if it is sometimes annoying. If there is a tendency for older people’s behavior to cause dangerous or risky things, be proactive and help them to avoid those risks. For instance, accompany them away from home and distract their attention. This response must be provided calmly and gently, without coercion, to be effective.
If the family starts to find it difficult to take care of the elderly or has limited time and resources, consider getting the services of a caregiver from a reputable hospital.
The Role of Caregiver and Health Professionals in Older People with Behavioral Disorders
In general, older people with behavioral disorders will have better care they need from caregivers and medical personnel. This is because they have been provided with training on geriatric issues, including dementia and other psychogeriatric conditions.
Caregivers are able to help older people cope with the specific conditions they are experiencing. Treatment of each type of disorder is different and requires knowledge that can be gained through learning and training. Experienced caregivers and health professionals generally know better what to do to treat behavioral disorders in the elderly.
How To Avoid Behavioral Disorders
It is natural that aging comes with a decline of physical, psychological, and social conditions. Decreased memory and thinking power can cause dementia in the elderly. A study published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International entitled “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Behavioral Disorders in Dementia” in 2017 stated that 76-96% of all patients with dementia had behavioral disorders. In addition, behavioral disorders such as aggression, agitation, delusions, suppression, emotional lability, and apathy occur in more than 90% of patients with dementia.
Thus, one way to prevent behavioral disorders in older people is to anticipate dementia. Dementia can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. For example, exercise regularly, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoid smoking. It is also important to be thorough in brain training, for instance, getting used to reading books, playing chess, and keeping a diary of daily activities.
However, as the cause of behavioral disorders in older people is not limited to dementia, consultation with a geriatrician or psychogeriatrician may be required to identify risks and formulate effective preventive measures.