Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that is responsible for causing extreme mood swings that include emotionally low depressive episodes and emotionally-high manic episodes.
When people experience depressive episodes, they may feel hopelessness, lose self-worth, feel sad and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When they experience mood shifts to hypomania or mania episodes, they may feel extremely energetic, euphoric or acute irritability. These mood swings can affect judgment, sleep, activity, and ability to think, focus, along with drastic change in behavior.
Although bipolar disorder can affect people of any age groups, it shows that 10 percent of the overall population suffering from bipolar disorder is senior citizens above the age of 50. Previously it was believed that bipolar disorder fades away with time, but untreated bipolar disorder worsens with time. Individuals who have suffered from bipolar disorder once might live with the condition undiagnosed for decades. Studies have shown that a higher number of senior citizens in the United States suffer from bipolar disorder. Caring for elderly people with this condition is imperative, though it is very challenging for the family members.
Helping elderly family members with bipolar disorder
It is quite vital for family members of elderly people grappling with bipolar condition to identify the signs. It has been observed that elderly people are less likely to exhibit signs of manic episodes. However, they might exhibit signs like anger, irritability, confusion, psychosis and hyperactivity. The elderly individuals are more likely to have irritable depression for prolonged period of time. Additionally, seniors with bipolar disorder show significant impairment in their cognitive functioning, including difficulties with perception, memory, judgment and problem-solving.
Treating the seniors require adequate diagnosis and care. They might not digest or metabolize medication as a younger adult might does. Therefore doses of medication are properly monitored before treating an elderly person. There are underlying complications while treating this age group for which, a brief medical check-up is done in the first place to rule out the possibility for Alzheimer’s and dementia, with symptoms that mimic bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy such as talk therapy has proved to be very effective for bipolar treatment for older adults. Some therapy programs are specifically customized for elderly people with bipolar condition.
Promising new research for bipolar disorder among the elderly
Currently, research is being done comparing anti-seizure medications to lithium in senior bipolar patients. The goal is to determine which type of drug has better benefits in treating the disorder with the least possible side-effects.
Earlier, lithium was determined to work well in small doses for elderly people but its side-effects were always a matter of concern for practitioners. Ongoing research is focused on finding an alternative of lithium and avoid it’s usage for senior citizens. Doubt still remains regarding optimal usage of lithium that can balance efficacy and prevent risk factors associated with it.
A study, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, focuses on comparing the safety and efficacy of divalproex and lithium in treatment for elderly people enduring bipolar disorder. The study, conducted in six academic centers, consisted of nine weeks of double-blind parallel group trial of divalproex and lithium on patients with bipolar I disorder having hypomanic, manic and mixed episodes. All patients were aged 60 years or above.
The lithium and divalproex were used in minimal doses, predetermined it’s usage in particular concentration of serum. Limited use of risperidone and lorazepam was included in the first three weeks of the study for insomnia or agitation.
The results showed response rate of lithium in three weeks and nine weeks treatment as 63% and 79% respectively. Whereas divalproex showed response rate in three weeks and nine weeks treatment as 57% and 73% respectively. Cumulative remission rate at nine weeks was higher for lithium at 70% and divalproex at 63%.
The results of the study evidenced that lithium and divalproex showed almost equal results in context to efficacy and tolerability for maniac episodes in older adults. It showed a positive result in the success rate of older age group but it also emphasized on lithium to be safer to treat older age group and avoiding less usage of antipsychotics.
The overall treatment plan for treating bipolar disorder includes medication in combination with psychotherapies such as talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. However, treating older age group will require adequate identification of signs and symptoms as well as companionate care.
Support groups can serve as a vital lifeline for family members caring for an older adult with bipolar disorder. Many psychiatrists advise support groups to families of bipolar patients.
Medical concierge also provides an array of intervention programs for treating mental health disorders and co-occurring disorders. We provide best bipolar disorder treatment options and have tie-ups with bipolar disorder treatment centers across California.
If a loved one in the family is grappling with any mental health disorder, we can help you avail inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and ensure long-term recovery of with customized treatment programs. To know more about our treatment programs call us today at our 24/7 toll free number 877-636-0042.