Getting older does not just mean an increased risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, arthritis, and other ailments: A new study warns that as many as 1 in 5 American seniors have a mental health issue.
This burgeoning mental health crisis threatens to overwhelm the U.S medical system as the baby boomer population ages over the next two decades. Millions of seniors risk falling through the cracks, unable to access heath care and services for mental health problems because the United States lacks a healthcare infrastructure of trained professionals to handle mental health issues.
The cost of medication to treat depression, dementia and other of the common mental health disorders in seniors will also be a burden on seniors and their caregivers struggling to pay for these costly medications.
At least 5.6 million to 8 million Americans age 65 and older have a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder currently and the Institute of Medicine report believes that this number will double or triple by 2030. Meeting the growing needs of the elderly will require a coordinated effort among government agencies, professional societies, providers and even family caregivers, the IOM report said.
If elderly people are not treated promptly and properly for mental health problems and substance misuse, their health outcomes worsen and the overall economic burden is significantly greater. If an elderly patient with depression is not treated for his/her mental condition, they are more likely to forget to take medications for other conditions they may have, such as hypertension or heart disease, and diabetes, resulting in longer and more frequent, costly hospital stays.
Solutions to this mental health crisis involve expanded training of primary care givers that seniors first contact with the health system. Physicians, nurses, physicians’ assistants and social workers that see seniors should have basic mental health training to recognize signs of geriatric mental health problems and be able to put in place treatment solutions early. Medicare and Medicaid also need to be changed to better reflect the treatment options for mental health conditions.
In terms of drug costs, online Canadian Pharmacies, like CanadaDrugs.com offer seniors and their caregivers that are taking drugs for depression or dementia a lower cost option.