Older Americans Experiencing Mental Health Issues

Americans are getting older. Currently, about 15 percent of the population are 60 and over. By 2050 Americans 60 and over will comprise about 25 percent.

With the aging of our population, we are seeing an increase in the number of people dealing with depression and other mental health disorders. Several factors are contributing to older individuals experiencing depression. As people get older many of their friends are passing away, leaving them with fewer or no friends with whom to socialize.

When someone retires they may begin to feel less valued compared to when they had a job and interacted regularly with others. Isolation is also a contributing factor as individuals find themselves in assisted living or nursing homes. The onset of diabetes and osteoarthritis may also contribute to depression. With retirement and isolation many people find themselves with financial difficulties, unable to pay for doctor visits, medication, and food.

Another problem facing many aging individuals is that not every general practitioner and psychiatrist is specially trained in geriatric mental illness. Consequently, some believe that doctors misdiagnose the elderly 50 percent of the time. Without special geriatric mental illness training, some doctors may diagnose a patient as having dementia when depression or other illness may be the actual problem. It is vital that people ask their health care providers if they are adequately trained to treat mental illness with the elderly.

While Medicare pays 80 percent of physical medical treatment, but pays only 50 percent of mental health treatment. This serves as an insurmountable obstacle in receiving the help many seniors need.

If you see an elderly loved one struggling with prolonged sadness, financial difficulties, trouble sleeping, excessive alcohol use or taking more meds than prescribed, or loss of interest in family and socializing, seek help from a qualified health care provider.

Properly diagnosed and medicated, our seniors can continue to live happy, productive lives in retirement.