Getting the proper health care is important for everyone, and this include taking care of mental health. But for a long time in the United States there has been a certain level of stigma attached to receiving psychiatric services. Many have thought that most people should be able to work through problems on their own, "tough it out", or simply "snap out of it." The stigma led to decreased insurance coverage, many untreated conditions, and a population where many don't live up to their potential. Fortunately, the stigma has been reduced for most people, but for the elderly it is still a major problem.
Not Just One of Those Things
According to studies from the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, approximately 18-25% of adults over 60 are candidates for treatment for depression, anxiety, age adjustment, schizophrenia, or psychosomatic disorders, yet older adults represent just 7% of inpatient psychiatric services, 6% of mental health services aimed at communities, and 9% of private care.
For older adults, receiving help for what is happening in the mind is something their generation frowned upon. Hollywood was no help either, with movies like "Psycho." Many feel like the respect they have earned through their life will disappear if they seek help, and they will be looked at as "crazy" or "incompetent," Trying to handle these conditions on their own has led to a suicide rate of 21% among elderly persons-- more than any other age group.
Reaching Out With Compassion
Older adults that live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or who live elsewhere, but participate in senior centers or receive home care can potentially tap into these support resources to get the help they need, but often it is up to the staff to make the first move when it comes to initiating mental health services. Services can begin slowly, such as participation in support or discussion groups.
Seniors need to be reassured that accepting help is something that can make them stronger, and motivate them to get the most out of their life. Treatment should be as discreet as the patient wants it, even as he or she is reminded that there is no shame in getting help.
Conditions like depression and various anxiety disorders can keep seniors isolated and can increase the chance of cognitive and physical decline. Staying engaged not only means that they can get more out of life, but it can also make their lives a little longer.