The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that, as the world’s population ages, this could increase the behavioral health conditions common among older adults. According to WHO, about 15 percent of adults aged 60 and older have a mental disorder.
Behavioral health providers are in a position to provide much-needed help to older Americans. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare to serve aging clients.
Understand older adults’ unique needs.
Older adults have particular needs and risk factors that can influence their behavioral health. For example:
- Retirement can lead to financial difficulties that affect mental health. It may also prompt a person to question his or her self-worth or meaning in life.
- Physical limitations of aging may also create stress and reduced feelings of self-worth.
- Older adults are more likely to experience bereavement and grief through the deaths of parents, spouses, siblings, and friends. This can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Elder abuse, from the physical to the financial, can have psychological effects such as a loss of dignity, depression, and anxiety.
- Age-related sexual dysfunction may influence relationships and self-image.
- Some individuals may develop late-life schizophrenia that can cause paranoia, isolation, or hospitalization.
Clinicians should be aware of any risk factors and symptoms of common behavioral health issues in older clients. Early detection and treatment can help keep problems from becoming crises.
Learn which therapies are most helpful for older adults.
There are many different types of therapy that can help older adults, but not every option works for every condition. Consider providing or referring your clients to approaches such as:
- Medication management
- Family-based therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Bereavement or grief counseling
- Occupational therapy to help improve functionality
- Group therapy, which may help with loneliness
- Stress management
Depending on the source of behavioral health issues, a combination of therapies may lead to better results.
Physical and mental health links are crucial.
Health experts and the general population increasingly understand that mental health and physical health are tightly connected. This connection is especially crucial among older adults.
Many older adults experience physical difficulties, from reduced mobility to serious chronic diseases, that can affect their mental health. Some conditions, such as cancer, can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
However, behavioral health concerns, such as loneliness, can also increase the risk of physical illness. Clinicians who work with older clients should consider both physical and mental health factors and how they may feed each other.
Be alert for substance misuse.
While substance abuse is often thought of as a problem for younger ages, alcohol and substance abuse among older adults has become a growing public health issue. A 2017 report on substance use in older adults has found an increase in recent years.
Opioids may contribute to this problem, as many older adults struggle with pain management. In addition, older adults are more likely to take medications for a variety of health conditions, creating potential problems with drug interactions.
Like other age groups, older adults have unique situations that can affect their behavioral health. The right tools and data can help you adjust treatments to get the best outcomes.
BestNotes EHR solutions can be customized to your practice’s unique needs to help you save time, reduce frustration, boost profitability, and improve client outcomes. Contact us today to learn more or request a demo!