Older Adults

Older adults and the elderly account for a substantial number of persons experiencing mental health disorders. Depression, dementia, Alzheimers Disease and other disorders are major factors in mental health of older Texans. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that although older adults account for 12% of the population, but account for 16% of deaths by suicide. In men aged 85 and over, the suicide rate is 49.8 per 100,000 population. The National Alliance for Mental Illness estimates that depression affects more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 and older.

Complicating factors such as co-occurring health concerns and social isolation can significantly impact mental health for older adults. It is important to consider these factors when addressing the needs of older adults and the elderly. Some of these factors include:

CHANGING LIVING AND SOCIAL ARRANGEMENTS

As older adults age, it often requires a change in living arrangements, sometimes living alone for the first time in years. Further, it is often during this time where older adults stop driving, thereby reducing the socialization opportunities they had been accustomed to. It is important to consider the impact of social isolation with assessing mental health and mental disorders. Depression with older adults is also associated with increasing dependency and disability related to the aging process.

CO-OCCURRING HEALTH CONCERNS

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the risk of depression increases with co-occurring illnesses in the elderly. NIMH estimates that major depression occurs at a rate of 1-5% for elderly who are living within their communities, but increases ten-fold for elderly who are hospitalized or receiving home health care. Depression has been found to occur at a higher rate among people who have other serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV, diabetes, and Parkinson’s; the risk of which increase as a person ages.  Chronic pain, cognitive decline and decreased mobility all contribute to depressive symptoms in older adults.

Side effects of medication: Many prescription drugs also have side effects of depressive symptoms. Many of these drugs are prescribed regularly for diseases and conditions affecting the elderly. It is imperative to ask your pharmacist about these side effects when prescribed medications.

Substance Use and Older Americans: Hazalden has identified substance abuse as one of the fastest growing mental health concerns in the United States. They estimated that substance abuse among older adults impacts about 17 percent of this population. Given the rate of growth anticipated in this demographic group, it is expected this trend will continue.

RESOURCES

SAMHSA  “Substance Abuse Among Older Adults” 
SAMHSA:  Rethinking the Demographics of Addiction: Helping Older Adults Find Recovery
SAMHSA: Older Adults Suicide Prevention 
SAMHSA: Serious Psychological Distress among Adults Aged 50 and Older: 2005 and 2006
NIMH: Depression and Older Adults

TOOLKITS

SAMHSA: Treatment of Depression in Older Adults Evidence Based Practices KIT 
SAMHSA:  Get Connected! Linking Older Adults with Medication, Alcohol and Mental Health Resources