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Mental illness becoming more common in the elderly, warn researchers

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Researchers at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association said today that the prevalence of Alzheimer's and other types of mental illnesses will increase with our country's rapidly aging population. Booster Shots reports:

The problem is that 20 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 and older by 2030 -- an increase from about 12 percent now. Life expectancy is also increasing, so people are living more years with dementia and other types of mental illnesses that can cause aggressive behaviors, delusions, wandering from homes or care facilities and other problematic behavior.

In a study at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, researchers found a significant increase in the number of elderly patients with mental illness coming to the emergency room in recent years, including a 30 percent jump from 2008 to 2009. Many of these patients were brought in by exasperated family members of other caregivers who were overwhelmed or exhausted or by nursing-home caregivers who were unable to deal with violence or other severe symptoms, said Dr. Brett Y. Lu, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Hawaii.

Stanford researchers and those elsewhere are investigating ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer's. During a recent 1:2:1 podcast, Frank Longo, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, discussed his research and the development of new treatments to prevent the onset or delay the progression of the illness.

Previously: The long good-bye: Stanford expert discusses Alzheimer’s in new podcast, Alzheimer's disease costs to soar over next 40 years , Exercise may lower women's risk of dementia later in life and Researchers working to improve Alzheimer's detection

Photo by Heidi Cartwright, Wellcome Images

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