Mental Health & Aging

Mental Health and Aging

America’s population is aging at an alarming rate.  This aging of our population is increasingly adding pressure upon society.  This is due to the increasing number of adults over the age of 65; the aging of the baby-boomers which has higher incidents of mental health issues than our current group of older adults; the rapid growth of the oldest-old population; and the associated complex mental health needs related to chronic illness, dementia and life-style transitions.  Lastly, pressures on a family’s ability to care for loved ones pose unprecedented challenges.

Mental health issues often hinder receiving quality healthcare.  There are a number of factors that complicate medical diagnosis and treatment in older adults.  Some include the fact that presenting symptoms of psychological distress in older adults differ from symptoms of younger adults.  Also, symptoms occur in the context of multiple medical and/or cognitive difficulties.  Additionally, clinicians, care providers and family members incorrectly believe that diminished health and/or mental status are natural by-products of aging.  This is precisely why these late-life complications need to be addressed by approaches that combine treatment that respects this complexity.

Some statistics…

  • 20% of those 55+ experience a mental health disorder that is not part of normal aging
  • Up to 70% of older adults living either independently or in long-term care communities suffer from clinical depression.
  • Older individuals often develop depression in the face of one or more general medical condition (e.g. stroke, cancer, myocardial infarction, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes).  Those suffering a stroke are twice as likely to develop depression.
  • Up to 20% of the elderly have symptoms of anxiety so severe that they seek medical attention.
  • Approximately 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of dementia with 70% of those individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.  This statistic will continue to rise to astronomical levels within the near future.
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is becoming more prevalent as our awareness of the manifestation of the syndrome grows, with up to 19% of adults being afflicted.  MCI is believed to be the clinical precursor of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Blindness to psychological distress exists because people often discount mental etiology while embellishing physical complaints.  Physicians routinely attend to patients’ biomedical issues while psychological aspects go untreated.  Lastly, when psychological issues are recognized, elements of stigmatization and lack of financial reimbursement sometimes preclude treatment from occurring.  The result of this neglect leads to unnecessary pain and suffering and increased medical morbidity and mortality.

We have more choice in the outcome of our health, mental status and aging than ever before.  The  role that psychological treatment can play in alleviating suffering , promoting health, preventing disease and restoring one’s quality of life  is real and profound.  Support is here to help you and your loved one.

Article Provided By:
Geromedical Psychological Services

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