Elderly Ageism in Medicine: Lack of Geropsychologists For the Elderly

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports on an ageist trend in medicine today:

A severe lack of geropsychologists to serve our rapidly aging society that requires specialized care and an ageist trend preventing elderly patients from using them.

Mental health issues among older Americans take on many forms, from depression and anxiety to behavioral health problems and difficulty adjusting to aging. Unfortunately, seniors see mental health issues as stigmas and are often too embarrassed to seek help.

Ageism in medicine is a growing trend.

Geropsychology: Fast Facts

According to the APA, there are only 10-15 geropsychology programs currently available and only 4.2% of psychologists specialize in geropsychology.  Furthermore, only 39% of practicing psychologists say they have treated patients over age 65.

Elderly: Fast Facts

  • approximately 20.4% of people 65 and older have some kind of mental disorder;
  • 15-20% of seniors have or have experienced depression;
  • 5.4 million seniors over 65 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (1 of every 8 people)
  • chronic health issues affect about 80% of older people and  60-65% have multiple conditions

Geropsychology Is Critically Important

Geropsychologists  help seniors (and their families) handle health issues specific to the elderly. As such, they can help older people enhance their overall feeling of wellbeing and encourage setting personal goals despite health problems.

It is extremely important that seniors experiencing depression or anxiety receive specialized professional help. According to the APA, depression, and anxiety affect the immune system, making patients susceptible to disease, infections, cancer and heart problems. Also, existing medical conditions can lead to depression and elevate risk factors.

Worse yet, depression can lead to suicide. The APA reports that depressed seniors are more likely to commit suicide than younger patients. This happens at a rate of 14.22 out of every 100,000. Furthermore, when they do attempt suicide, they are more likely to succeed.

Elderly Ageism At Play

Rather than seeking psychological counseling, many seniors experiencing mental or behavioral health issues turn to their primary care physicians. Many of these doctors do not refer their patients appropriately.

  • Probably due to the expectation that seniors are naturally “blue” considering their health status and loss of independence. This is the very definition of elderly ageism. This attitude is precisely why elderly patients do not get the care they are entitled to.
  • On a practical level, doctors may be hesitant to refer patients to mental health programs since many are not covered by insurance. Retired fixed incomes may not lend themselves easily to this kind of added expense.
  • Finally, logistics may be a barrier. Many seniors do not have access to reliable transportation and escorts.

Still, given the potential gravity (and possibly fatality) of the situation, doctors should be more willing to work around these obstacles. After all, for a younger person doctors would be afraid not to.

Overcoming the Problem

We can help. The David York Agency’s has ties to Project HEAL who help seniors struggling with depression through their government grant. Our highly qualified caregivers provide seniors with companionship both at home and to any of their appointments. They also provide the assistance they need to get the most from their golden years.

Contact us – together we can assess your needs and establish the proper care level for you or your family member or loved one. For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.