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How To Deal With Very Late-Onset Schizophrenia

Mar 08 2018

By Jess Walter

 Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Schizophrenia affects people from all walks of life and its normal onset is during late teens. At the other end of the age spectrum, very late-onset schizophrenia is classified as symptoms of this illness in people aged 65 and older. Unfortunately, it is harder to treat in the elderly and its effects can be devastating. Dealing with the illness requires an understanding of how very late-onset schizophrenia differs from that of earlier-onset schizophrenia.

What Characterizes Very Late-Onset Schizophrenia?

Late-onset schizophrenia has a number of markers that differentiate it from other types of the illness. It is more common in women than men and is characterized by brain structure abnormalities. Fortunately, thought disorder and negative symptoms are absent, but an impaired cognitive function is marked as is the deterioration of cognitive function. One of the factors that makes it difficult to tell if someone will end up with very late-onset schizophrenia is that there needn’t be a family history of the illness for an elderly person to develop it.

Of course, one of the most worrying factors of schizophrenia is the psychotic episodes experienced by the patient. Psychosis includes hallucination and delusions whereby someone with the illness will experience both illogical, untrue beliefs, and may hear voices and see things that are not there. Furthermore, their speech can be irregular and confused. The most dangerous aspect of psychosis is that some individuals become aggressive and may attempt to harm themselves or others. Aggression and agitation are common in people with very late-onset schizophrenia when experiencing a psychotic episode. The only exception is that verbal rather than physical aggression is more common in very late-onset schizophrenia patients.

How Is Very Late-Onset Schizophrenia Diagnosed?

In a similar fashion to normal schizophrenia, the patient must see a psychiatrist, preferably one who deals with geriatric psychiatry. The factors that make someone more inclined to develop very late-onset schizophrenia are considered, as well as their symptoms. The possibility that other medications for treatment of cardiac problems, for example, may be causing psychosis is considered. A psychiatrist also will consider that they may have a case of Alzheimer’s Disease Psychosis. Whilst this kind of psychosis is similar to schizophrenia, there are key differences. For example, with Alzheimer’s the hallucinations are more likely to be visual and delusions are not categorized as “bizarre” or difficult to fit into reality. Schizophrenia, however, has more auditory hallucinations and are deemed “very bizarre.” Patients with schizophrenia will need long-term treatment with medication, and therapy, and thankfully the illness can be managed.

Treatment Of Very Late-Onset Schizophrenia

The treatment of this kind of schizophrenia includes the use of atypical antipsychotics. Deciding which kind is best for the patient requires a psychiatrist to assess other diseases they may have and other medications they are on.

Other treatment options include psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy. Talking to a psychotherapist can help deal with the stressors that the patient experiences and help them find better ways to cope with these stressors.

The positive fact is that even with very-late onset schizophrenia, quality of life can still be had. Thinking of your age as a limiting factor is not necessary. You can live a healthy and happy life if you treat any illnesses properly, and try to maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible.

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