Common Health Problems with Aging 135
Anxiety and depression
Older women sometimes feel anxious or depressed because
their role in the family and community has changed, because
they feel alone or worried about the future, or because they
have health problems that cause pain and discomfort. For
more information on anxiety and depression, see the chapter
on “Mental Health.”
Mental confusion (dementia)
Some older people have difficulty remembering things and
thinking clearly. When these problems become severe, it is
• difficulty concentrating, or getting lost in the middle of a
• repeating the same thing over and over. The person will not
remember having said the same thing before.
• difficulty with daily tasks. The person may have trouble
knowing how to dress or prepare food.
• behavior changes. The person may become irritable, angry,
or do sudden, unexpected things.
These signs are caused by changes in the brain, and usually
develop over a long period of time. If the signs begin suddenly,
the problem probably has other causes, such as too much
medicine in the body (toxicity), a serious infection, malnutrition,
or severe depression. The confusion will often go away if these
problems are treated.
There is no special treatment or cure for dementia.
Caring for someone who is confused can be very hard
on family members. It helps to share the responsibility
of care and get support from people outside the family
To help the person with dementia, try to:
• make her surroundings as safe as possible.
• keep daily routines regular so she knows what
• keep familiar objects around the house.
• talk to her in a calm, slow voice. Give her
plenty of time to answer.
• set clear limits without a lot of choices. Ask
questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.”
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012