Survey: Poor mental health care keeping seniors at risk

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Coordinating acute, long-term care for seniors with severe mental illness promises Medicare cost sav
Coordinating acute, long-term care for seniors with severe mental illness promises Medicare cost sav

Many Americans age 65 and older who suffer from mental health disorder do not receive treatments that meet acknowledged standards, according to results of a new survey. Conducted by the John A. Hartford Foundation, the study showed that many seniors do not know depression can significantly increase other health risks.

 

Forty-six percent in the treatment group said their provider did not provide an important part of effect care — a follow-up within weeks of the start of treatment. Other categories were worse. The study focused on 1,300 individuals.

A range of 22% to 40% percent of the group said providers did not cover one of five other treatment linchpins, including discussing side effects and how long treatment would take.

The data also showed that more than 20 percent of the participants did not know that depression is believed to double a person's risk of dementia and increase by a third the chance of a heart attack. More than 25 percent incorrectly thought depression was a condition natural to aging.

In addition, 73% in the treatment group were not given questions to measure their progress, 78% had not had a change in medication dosage and 88% had not added another treatment.

Mental health problems affect nearly one in five older adults, according to the Institute of Medicine report.

“Treating depression and other mental health conditions can be very successful but it is not easy. The first drug, the first treatment, or a single treatment often doesn't work,” said Christopher Langston of the Hartford Foundation. “We know that a structured team approach, which includes educating and engaging patients in their own care; following up carefully on response to treatment; and modifying treatment plans if they aren't working, is very effective. This type of care needs to be available to all older adults.”

The report, “Silver and Blue: The Unfinished Business of Mental Health Care for Older Adults,” can be read here.

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