Understanding Bipolar DisorderBipolar disorder is a disorder of the brain that occurs in all ages, but the number of seniors with bipolar disorder is projected to increase as the overall population ages. In fact, studies have shown that about 10 percent of newly diagnosed cases are in people who are aged 50 or older. Because bipolar disorder may actually worsen if it is left untreated, understanding the condition can help family caregivers of seniors to know when to contact a doctor and get the necessary health.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder used to be known as “manic depressive disorder.” It is characterized by wild mood swings that can take a person from being on an emotional high to severe depression. During episodes of depression, a person might feel sad or lose hope. When they are in a manic episode, they might be irritable or have more energy than usual. When a person experiences a shift in mood, it can affect sleep, judgement, energy, and behavior. These shifts might occur only once in a while or several times in a year. Some people will not exhibit symptoms between episodes, but others may have some.

Symptoms in Seniors

Seniors often do not exhibit the same symptoms of bipolar disorder that younger people do. Instead of the elation that usually comes with a manic episode, they might be agitated or irritable. Other symptoms they might exhibit include:

  • Confusion.
  • Psychosis.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Easily distracted.
  • Cognitive changes.
  • Changes in judgement.
  • Memory problems.
  • Perception and problem-solving difficulties.

When a person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder after the age of 60, the condition is sometimes quite severe. They may have rapid mood shifts and frequent episodes. Sometimes they will even show symptoms of depression and mania at the same time.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Treatment plans for bipolar disorder usually involve both medications and therapy. The condition is not curable, but treatment can help control mood swings and reduce symptoms. Medications used to treat the disorder include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and atypical antipsychotics. The doctor may request that the patient and their family caregivers track mood shifts. Keeping a daily journal of symptoms, activities, sleep patterns, and life events can help doctors to better understand the patient’s symptoms and how well the treatment plan is working.

If your parent has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hiring an elderly care provider through an agency can help. Elderly care providers can remind your parent to take their medications on schedule. They can also drive your parent to therapy and medical appointments. An elderly care provider could be useful in helping your parent to document daily symptoms and activities as well.



When you are in need of care for a senior loved one, consider caregivers provided by Golden Heart Senior Care. We have offices nationwide. For more information, call us today at (800) 601-2792.

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