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We Owe It to Seniors to Make Geriatric Behavioral Health a Priority

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The senior population has historically been underserved where behavioral health is concerned. Our healthcare system just has not given priority to geriatric behavioral health. As unfortunate as this is, we have the opportunity to change this. We owe it to our senior community to give priority to their mental health.

Geriatric behavioral health programs are one of the many programs we focus on with both our mental health consulting and mental health management services. We help healthcare providers establish and maintain geriatric behavioral health programs that achieve measurable results. We can help your organization develop a new geriatric program or improve an existing one.

Our Aging Population

A report from the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved estimates that the number of seniors in the U.S. will reach approximately 95 million by 2060. Right now, the number stands closer to 52 million.  Every one of those 52 million seniors is at risk for developing behavioral health issues.

Not focusing on geriatric behavioral health will only have negative consequences. Among them is high suicide rates. According to the previously mentioned report, seniors currently have the highest suicide completion rate of any of the surveyed age groups. Consider the following:

  • The suicide success rate across the entire population is 1%.
  • The suicide success rate among seniors is 25%.
  • Though seniors make up about 16% of the population, they account for 20% of all successful suicides.

It is clear that our senior population is in the midst of a behavioral health crisis. If geriatric behavioral health has not  been a priority for your organization, now is the time to reevaluate your priorities. Mental health providers from coast-to-coast need to recommit to their geriatric programs.

Three Barriers to Overcome

Implementing successful geriatric programs is never easy. And even with existing programs in place, it can be difficult to convince senior patients to take advantage of them. Unfortunately, there are significant barriers that tend to hold senior patients back. Here are just three of them:

  • Misinformation – Healthcare is rife with misinformation. Patients can research behavioral health issues on their own utilizing the internet, and come across all sorts of information that is simply not true. They are not helped by mis-information.
  • Misconceptions About Aging – It is not unusual for seniors to hold to certain misconceptions about aging. They are quick to believe that what they might be experiencing is normal with age. They might not believe that their issues can or should be treated.
  • Associated Stigma – There is an unspoken stigma attached to behavioral health in general. Geriatric behavioral health is not exempt. Unfortunately, the stigma of mental health problems is powerful enough to keep seniors from seeking care.

Overcoming these barriers is a matter of educating seniors, building strong relationships with them, and encouraging them to seek help through a variety of programs and services. When they do seek help, we have to offer them programs and services that actually work.

We Are Living Longer

Significant advances in physical and mental health over the last several decades are helping people live longer. The longer we all live, the longer we will need access to healthcare services – including behavioral health. We take the position that age should not be a barrier to receiving behavioral health care.

Geriatric behavioral health has not been a top priority for our healthcare system in recent years. We need to begin working on changing that. The senior population has significant and legitimate mental health needs that deserve to be met. We owe it to them to do everything we can to help.

Let’s Get to Work, Together

Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.