Prioritising mental health in ageing

Written by: Dr Pravir Sharma
Edited by: Kate Forristal

As the world ages, addressing the mental health needs of older adults is crucial. In his latest online article, Dr Pravir Sharma examines common mental health conditions in seniors, discussing challenges in care, recognising symptoms, evaluating treatments, and identifying resources.

What are some of the most common mental health disorders that affect older adults?

The mental health conditions impacting older adults closely resemble those affecting younger individuals. These include anxiety disorders, depression, and certain late-onset psychotic disorders. While bipolar disorder may occasionally arise later in life, it is relatively rare. More prevalent among the elderly are disorders like dementia, which can manifest in various forms. Additionally, neurological conditions like Parkinson's and other related disorders are also encompassed within this spectrum.


What are some of the challenges of providing mental health care to older adults?

In older adults, the primary difficulty lies in the intertwining of physical and psychological aspects. For instance, physical ailments such as heart attacks or cardiac conditions can lead to subsequent occurrences of depression.


These challenges extend to the treatment of psychiatric issues in older adults, as many of them concurrently contend with physical illnesses like kidney, heart, or liver diseases. It is crucial to bear in mind the potential interactions with existing medications they may be taking. Consequently, the selection of medications and treatments requires careful consideration and precision due to these complexities.


What are some of the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders in older adults?

Although not exclusive to older adults, the complexity arises from the potential overlap of physical, psychological, or medical conditions, leading to possible confusion. For instance, if an individual expresses fatigue, it could be attributed to depression, but it might also be linked to thyroid issues or underlying heart conditions. It is crucial to meticulously scrutinise and differentiate the symptoms and signs of psychiatric problems in older adults to avoid misinterpreting them and overlooking concurrent organic or physical health issues.


What are some of the effective treatments for mental health disorders in older adults?

Effective treatments are available for depression and anxiety disorders in addition to equally effective approaches for schizophrenia and bipolar disorders in older adults. The field of older psychiatry also incorporates new medications designed for addressing memory disorders and dementia. Specifically, medications play a role in stabilising cardiac risk factors, particularly in cases of vascular dementia, contributing to comprehensive and effective management in the realm of older psychiatry.


What are some of the resources available for older adults who are struggling with mental health problems?

Resources are consistently in high demand. It would be beneficial to have additional teams and dedicated spaces within hospitals to provide swift and suitable care for patients. Additionally, considering the anticipated increase in the prevalence of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia in the future, there is a need to address the resource implications associated with these illnesses. It becomes essential to allocate the necessary resources for the care of individuals with dementia as their numbers are expected to rise in the coming decades.


What can be done to improve the mental health of older adults?

The initial step is to promptly identify issues, possible through heightened awareness of psychiatric issues like depression, anxiety, and memory problems in the general population. This increased awareness encourages early recognition and seeking help. The second key aspect is to convey that effective treatments exist, motivating individuals to actively seek and undergo treatments rather than enduring unnecessary suffering. Lastly, there is a crucial demand for ongoing research and innovation. New medications are imperative for various conditions, and the current cutting-edge research in brain diseases and memory disorders highlights the need for more diverse and effective treatments for these conditions.


Dr Pravir Sharma is an esteemed psychiatrist. You can schedule an appointment with Dr Sharma on his Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Pravir Sharma

Dr Pravir Sharma is a highly-trained consultant psychiatrist in Birmingham, the West Midlands, and specialises in mental health issues in the elderly and general adult psychiatry. His focus also includes depression, dementia and anxiety disorders alongside post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder. He is also renowned for his expertise in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, schizophrenia and mood disorders. Dr Sharma sees patients at Sutton Medical Consulting in Sutton-Coldfield and also provides e-Consultations for international and UK patients.

He completed his basic and postgraduate training at the well-regarded National Institute of Mental Health Neurosciences, Bangalore, India, before moving to the UK to specialise in old-age psychiatry. Dr Sharma worked in a full-time substantive post with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust for more than 18 years retiring from his post in June 2021. He is currently working as a Locum Consultant in a NHS Trust in West Midlands and has also been appointed by the Care Quality Commission as a second opinion doctor. 

Dr Sharma has dedicated his years' training and professional years in psychiatry to treat his patients to the best of his ability. Beyond his full-time work for the NHS and his time with his private clinics, he is also active in medico-legal work. He can act as an expert witness, prepare medico-legal reports, appear in court, and has experience in personal injury, mental capacity and clinical negligence cases relating to his area of expertise. Additionally, he is skilled in acting as an expert witness in cases relating to immigration as well as employment tribunals, the preparation of occupational health or psychiatric reports, including those relating to road traffic accidents, PTSD or industrial or workplace injuries. Dr Sharma is Section 12(2) Approved for the use of Mental Health Act. 

Additionally, Dr Sharma has conducted research and appeared in multiple publications in national and international journals over the years. Keeping his involvement in his field well-rounded, he was also an active member of groups and associations in roles such as medical appraiser, educational supervisor and examiner.

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

  • Related procedures
  • Relationship counselling
    Psychiatric Treatment
    Paediatric psychiatry
    Toxic Addiction (alcoholism)
    Psychotic disorders
    Eating disorders
    Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
    This website uses our own and third-party Cookies to compile information with the aim of improving our services, to show you advertising related to your preferences as well analysing your browsing habits. You can change your settings HERE.