Ageism in Medicine: Mental Health is Critical for the Elderly

Mental Health is Critical in the Elderly

Mental health is equally as important as physical health.

The U.S. Surgeon General once defined mental health as “the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and providing the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.” This holds true for everyone – including the elderly. Sadly, the lack these activities and stimuli leads to lower quality of life and poor mental health.

Deteriorating mental health can affect financial stability, put strain on families, open up the possibility for criminal victimization, and have a negative impact on physical well-being. Unfortunately, mental health is an area doctors avoid when treating their elderly patients. This implies that depression is normal in older patients.

Jarring Mental Health Trends in the Elderly

The rate of suicide among the elderly is four times the national average. Additionally, seventy-five percent of those who committed suicide visited their primary care doctor within the previous month.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, recently published a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. This study found that doctors do not spend enough time discussing mental health with elderly patients. Results also suggested that doctors “need more support to identify, treat and refer their patients to mental health specialists.”

How to Spot Depression

Caregivers and family members of the elderly should watch for signs of mental illness. These include:

  • Sadness or depression lasting longer than two weeks
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or social activities
  • Unexplained decrease in energy or changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulties with concentration or decision-making
  • Change in appetite or changes in weight
  • Memory loss, especially short-term memory
  • Feelings of unimportance, misplaced guilt or thoughts of suicide
  • Unexplainable physical setbacks such as aches, constipation, etc.
  • Changes in appearance or problems taking care of the home
  • Struggles with money or working with numbers

Moving Forward

Given the facts, it stands to reason that further geriatrics training should be required of all doctors and caregivers. This would help combat the lack of mental health treatments available to the elderly. Tackling depression among the elderly could improve overall wellbeing. By providing improved care medical professionals could also enhance the personal independence and maintenance of mental well-being among the elderly population.

Caregivers and family members can protect the mental health of older adults by being watchful for the symptoms and advocating for quality care. Therapy, medications and lifestyle changes can all be effective in treating mental illness, allowing older adults to live longer, fuller lives.

We Can Help

DYA puts a premium on personalized services and attention and conducts regular training classes for all their home health aides regarding many conditions endemic to the elderly. 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 you need.

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Avoiding Depression After the Holidays

The holidays are over. Everyone has returned home after many fun-filled days of presents and fabulous meals. With the family holiday visits a thing of the past, many elderly may come down with the post holiday blues. It is easy to fall into depression, but there are many things to do to avoid it. Here are some tips.

  1. Do something different.depressionThis year, change it up a bit. Whether it is a new hobby, listening to an audio book or going out to a new restaurant, trying something new each week or each month can help keep depression at bay and life interesting.
  1. Stay on schedule.The holidays disrupt schedules. However, once they are over, getting back to a normal routine is key to avoiding how the disruption, which is often accompanied by loss of sleep, can affect moods negatively.
  1. Exercise is important at every age. If the cold of winter keeps your senior loved one indoors, try a video exercise program or one on cable television. While exercise may not feel good at the time, the benefits are well worth it.
  1. Eat sensibly.After all those heavy holiday meals, a more normal diet is in order. Eating healthfully keeps you feeling fit — physically and emotionally.
  1. Don’t miss medication doses. Make sure that you’re up-to-date on your refills, too.
  1. Ask for Help. A network of close friends and family to turn to when things get tough is critical especially during a depression. Asking them for help is important.

David York Home Healthcare Agency can help you or your family member with all of the activities of daily life and provide companionship during a trying time. David York Agency is a home healthcare agency that provides high quality skilled home health aide services for the elderly with the highest degree of personal service. We regularly check credentials and maintain valid references for our aides. You can be sure that the highest caliber home health aides are caring for your loved ones. David York Agency would be happy to discuss your case with you. Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit our website. You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

 

 

 

A Tool to Diagnose Depression in the Elderly and Type 2 Diabetics

According to a recent article in Home Healthcare Nurse entitled “Diabetes, Depression, and OASIS-C”, among the population 65 years and older, one in six suffers from depression and this is especially true among elderly adults who receive home care.  Identifying depression in the home bound elderly and effectively treating it may be key to decreasing their hospitalization rates and all its associated health and financial costs since the effects of depression can send the elderly adult down a path of negative complications. 

depressionAn additional finding that has some serious implications for our aging population is that research indicates depression is higher among adults with diabetes than the general population.  In fact, diabetics are twice as likely  to suffer from depression.  Under the best of circumstances, our senior citizens have increased chronic and acute diseases; with the interplay of diabetes and depression the rate of mortality, cardiac problems, diabetes related problems, functional impairment as well as hospitalizations increase.  A significant reduction in the overall quality of life ensues due to the resulting combination of events of poor self care, functional impairment and significant nutritional issues. 

Depression is a very treatable condition.  New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene research has shown that 70% to 80% of patients respond well to treatment and good medical care. 

As an essential start, before this issue can be adequately addressed, the patient must be seen by trained nurses and clinicians and a medical doctor should screen for any endocrine disorders.  After other medical issues have been ruled out, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has mandated using a new diagnostic assessment tool in the form of a PHQ-9 questionnaire which is a validated instrument used in primary care to screen for depression in home care patients with Type 2 diabetes.  The questionnaire is an upgrade from the one formerly used because it measures the physical symptoms of depression as well as the level of interest in activity and mood.  With a score of 3 or higher, the patient is referred to a clinician by the home healthcare team

Training a home healthcare provider to recognize symptoms of depression will greatly increase the prospect of its treatment, especially in Type 2 diabetics and home bound elderly patients where its prevalence is so much higher.  Cooperation and communication between all the healthcare disciplines is essential in order to achieve successful diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care. 

The home healthcare team at David York Home Healthcare Agency is on the lookout for the signs and symptoms of depression in the elderly and is eager to be an active player in the treatment plan of the total elderly caregiver team.  Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit our website at http://davidyorkhomehealthcare.com/.  You could also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.