Learn More About Older Adult Mental Health

Mental health and wellness in older adults

Geriatric psychiatry focuses on evaluation, prevention, diagnosis, and care of ailments including cognitive impairments like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Treatment also takes into account the effects of caring for older adults and can address support for families and caregivers as well as patients.


Dementia, also known as major neurocognitive disorder, is a collection of symptoms that severely affect memory and thoughts so as to interfere with daily functions. Dementia is the persistent interruption of brain processes, most often evident in memory impairments, changes in personality, and inability to reason. Dementia is often complicated by mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder.

Treatment at McLean
Mental health often impacts older adults in unique ways due to the effects of aging on the brain

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia, often starting with mild memory difficulties and moving to a steady decline of memory and brain function.

Though many organizations are actively researching causes, medications, and cures for Alzheimer’s, current treatments can often delay the progression of the disease, but there is currently no cure. Care and support are of primary importance in the treatment of older adults with Alzheimer’s.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar have high and low moods, known as mania and depression, which differ from the typical ups and downs most people experience. If left untreated, the symptoms usually get worse. However, with a strong lifestyle that includes self-management and a good treatment plan, many people live well with the condition. Bipolar disorder is often under-diagnosed in older adults.


Research into causes, cures, and symptom reduction is a crucial aspect of older adult care. At McLean, our programs utilize care models and treatments based on clinical and neuroscience research, including cutting-edge studies conducted by investigators in McLean’s Geriatric Psychiatry Clinical Research Program.

Research conducted at McLean is exploring ways to slow down disease progression of Alzheimer’s disease, potential treatments for behavioral complications of Alzheimer’s dementia (such as agitation, anxiety, sleep disorders, and mood disturbance), as well as aspects of depression and bipolar disorder, memory loss, and more. Patients in McLean’s older adult mental health programs may be asked to join in studies as research subjects. Study participation is voluntary, and declining does not affect access to care.

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Looking for even more information about older adult mental health? You may find these resources helpful.

Interesting Articles and More

Learn more about mental health in older adults and what you can do if you or a loved one is displaying signs they are struggling.

Caregiver Resources

Helpful Links

Alzheimer’s Association
A leading voluntary health organization focused on providing quality care and support, accelerating research, and educating and raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia.

An online community that enables those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias to connect, advocate for change, and have access to up-to-date resources and expert information.

American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
A membership association of geriatric psychiatrists and other health care professionals that is involved in professional education, advocacy, and career development for those in the field of geriatric psychiatry with the mission of promoting the mental health and well-being of older adults.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
A nonprofit organization providing support groups for people with depression or bipolar disorder, as well as their friends and family. DBSA offers education, personal wellness tools, access to research studies, and assistance with finding the right treatment.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Boston
A nonprofit, self-help support organization run by volunteers, for people who struggle with mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, and for family and friends.

National Council on Aging
An organization focused on delivering resources, tools, and advocacy for older adults, with a focus on health and financial security, to ensure that Americans age well, with dignity, purpose, and security.

National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health agency that leads the federal government in advancing and disseminating research and general health information on aging and the health and well-being of older adults.

Books About Older Adult Mental Health

Bipolar Disorder in Older PatientsBipolar Disorder in Older Age Patients
by Susan W. Lehmann and Brent P. Forester, editors
(Springer, 2017)

Geriatric Forensic PsychiatryGeriatric Forensic Psychiatry: Principles and Practice
by Jacob C. Holzer, Robert Kohn, James M. Ellison, Patricia R. Recupero, editors
(Oxford, 2017)