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The Vulnerable Older Adult | How’s Your Emotional Health

The Vulnerable Older Adult | How’s Your Emotional Health


Many people tend to form perceptions and stereotypes when the notion of aging arises. Seniors can be beset by increasing medical, physical, social, and financial concerns. While such predicaments can be true, resulting in older adults being vulnerable to emotional health concerns, the perceptions are unwarranted most of the time.

Feeling good is natural for people of all ages. Basically, emotional and social goals and functioning do not change so dramatically with age.  However, there are a lot of factors that can challenge a person who is entering a different phase.  Many naturally occurring and expected changes can affect someone experiencing it, such as isolation, the “empty nest syndrome,” loss of loved ones, and overall health.

If you are feeling lower than you are used to, it can be a mistake to take it lightly. You may be vulnerable because of the challenges presented. That doesn’t mean you should accept an emotional state that is weighing heavily upon you. There is a resolution to the negative feelings and thoughts that may be there.  It may be time to arm yourself with the right kind of information by embracing ways that can truly help you.


Here are some facts about your vulnerability that you should know:


  • Feeling good is the norm. A number of studies reveal that the emotional health of older adults tends to improve despite physical and cognitive aging.  In a landmark study done by Charles, Reynolds and Gatz (2001), it was reported that “the tendency exhibited by most people to have a positive outlook extends into the senior years.” While there can indeed be medical, social, and emotional issues that may weigh them down, a good number of seniors can stay emotionally well adjusted for the substantial time in their later years.


  • What the study means. The study documents and supports the “socioemotional selectivity” theory. This theory can result in older adults being conscious about the value of time, so that they tend to focus more on positive thoughts and memories, while increasingly and more effectively facing their negative emotions. The authors of the landmark study also said that “With age, people place increasingly more value on emotionally meaningful goals and thus invest more cognitive and behavioral resources in obtaining them.”


  • The statistics say, “You are not alone.” According to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC), approximately 20 percent of older adults (55 years and older) are struggling with an emotional condition (depression and anxiety) and neurodegenerative disorder (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.). The American Psychological Association also reports that many of them also have personality disorders that are being aggravated by chronic medical issues.


  • Physical/Medical issues can mask the emotional symptoms. It is a common issue that the symptoms of the emotional condition of an older adult are not readily recognized because of medical symptoms. In fact, many of those who are being diagnosed are those who are seeking help for something else. Experts advise that the manifestations of those who are at greater risk be monitored and not ignored.


  • Depression, anxiety and mood disorders are the leading emotional conditions. Based on statistical reports, depression, mood disorders and anxiety are the most prevalent emotional condition among the seniors. In a 2006 survey, CDC reports that about 5 percent of them experience depression while about 7.6 percent have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The World Health Organization also reports that a significant number are either undiagnosed or underdiagnosed, as well as untreated or undertreated. This is because the symptoms are unnoticed or overlooked being nonspecific or like the other medical issues of the older adult.


  • Are you vulnerable? According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, you are vulnerable to poor emotional health if you have any or several of these:


  • Physical disability
  • Long-term illness (e.g., heart disease or cancer)
  • Dementia-causing illness (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Physical illnesses that can affect thought, memory, and emotion (e.g. thyroid or adrenal disease)
  • Change of environment, like moving into assisted living
  • Illness or loss of a loved one
  • Medication interactions
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Poor diet or malnutrition


  • Symptoms of cognitive/emotional aging you must watch out for. Becoming forgetful can naturally come with aging. Cognitive impairment and constant memory loss, however, are serious indications that must not be ignored. This is a red flag of cognitive aging. Other symptoms that A Place for Mom suggests paying attention to are:


  • Sad or depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks
  • Social withdrawal; loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
  • Unexplained fatigue, energy loss, or sleep changes
  • Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making
  • Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in weight
  • Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems
  • Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide
  • Physical problems that can’t otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
  • Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard
  • Trouble handling finances or working with numbers



  • Repeated ER visits or hospital admissions
  • Neglect of medical problems
  • Lack of follow-up for appointments
  • Noncompliance with medication
  • Acute deterioration in ADLs or cognition
  • Unexplained weight loss or failure to thrive
  • Refusal of appropriate and needed as­sistance (e.g., home care, meal delivery)
  • Threat of eviction
  • Motor vehicle accidents or moving violations
  • “Doctor shopping”
  • Decline in financial status
  • Sudden appearance of new “caregiver”


  • Chronic medical conditions can contribute poor functioning and vulnerability. Depression, anxiety and mood disorders can complicate their cognitive aging. The condition may result in their increasingly thinking that their health is deteriorating or getting worse, even when it is not. Financially challenged older adults are at higher risk, fearing and feeling hopeless that they may not be able to afford their late-life health care.


  • Clinical assessment of symptoms and diagnosis can be different for every patient. There can be individual differences in the symptoms or manifestations of an older adult. This underscores the need for flexibility when being assessed, and even when the therapy/intervention program is planned. Regardless the surrounding circumstances, preferences, and goals, the most important thing is to get a proper assessment by a capable professional. The process is critical because it is the basis of the diagnosis, and the diagnosis is the foundation of the treatment.


You could benefit from the help of a qualified therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Cameron, NC, on Hwy 87, near Linden Oaks. At this phase in your life, it is important to address issues as they arise. Rather than remaining in a state of uncertainty or “doctor shopping,” you may benefit by finding the right-match therapist for you when you are struggling with poor emotional health.

This is where CCS-Cameron comes in. The right contracted therapist’s treatment plan can result in improvements to your independence, hope and confidence, sense of safety, daily functioning, and a better quality of life.

You can be a happy and emotionally healthy senior with the right counseling.  Not only is emotional health among seniors more enjoyable, it is what you deserve and can achieve. If you are burdened by these concerns, call Carolina Counseling Services – Cameron, NC, on Hwy 87, near Linden Oaks, to schedule your first appointment!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Harnett County

Areas: Cameron NC, Linden Oaks NC, Sprout Springs NC, Anderson Creek NC, Olivia NC, Pineview NC, Johnsonville NC, Spring Lake NC

Zip Codes: 28326, 28327, 27332, 28394

Rose Thomas, MA, LPC, LCAS, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Teens, Individuals, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Parenting, PTSD/Trauma Recovery, Acute Stress Disorder, Adult Sexual Abuse Survivors, Adjustment Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Bipolar and Related Disorders, Self-injurious/Self-Harm, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety, Disruptive Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Marital Conflict and Discord, LGBT, Substance Use Disorders
 Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Tricare Prime, Tricare Select, Extra, Retired, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted (credit cards accepted)
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express


Specializes in: (Ages 4+) Children, Individuals, families, PTSD, Trauma, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Adjustment Disorder, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, communication skills, and Parenting Skills, Behavior Management, Life transitions, Family Conflict, Difficulty Coping, Relationship Problems, Depression, Anxiety

InsuranceBCBSTricare, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted and Apple Pay

Credit cards:  


Shirlisa Daniels, MS, LPC, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 4+) Children, Teens, Adults and Individuals, Families, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Panic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, ODD, PTSD, Relationship Issues, Conflict Resolution and Life Transitions
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Cash (credit cards accepted)
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

Holly Ring, LMFT

Specializes in: (Ages 7+) Adolescents, College Students, Individuals, Couples, and Families, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma (child and adult, TFCBT certified), Relationship Issues, Coping Skills, Adjustment Disorders, Life Transitions, Suicidal Ideation, Self-esteem, OCD, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting Skills, LGBTQ
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Cash (credit cards accepted)
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: (910) 716-8006 (Fastest way to schedule)
  • Text: (910) 308-3291 (Reply will be via phone)
  • Click here and use our Contact Form (You must include your phone number, because replies will only be made by telephone to ensure security/privacy)
  • Call or Text for your New Patient Appointment Anytime!
  • Appointment scheduling for NEW clients: Mon-Fri 8:30am-5:15pm
  • New client appts may be scheduled when therapists have openings, which may include daytime, evenings and weekends.
  • Established/Standing Appointments are made directly with your therapist!
  • Referrals: MOST beneficiaries do NOT need a Referral!
Carolina Counseling Services - Cameron, NC
35 Plantation Drive, Suite 100B and 100C
Cameron, NC 28326

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

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