Geriatric Patient Holding a Family Member's HandThere has been a lot of discussion lately about the effects of the pandemic and other challenging recent events on the mental health of young people, parents, and wage-earners. Often left out of the discussion is the impact these events have had on the elderly population. Even in ordinary times, seniors struggle with mental health issues at higher rates than younger people. Fortunately, there is help available that is aimed specifically at older people. If you, your spouse, or a parent is struggling with depression, anxiety, or another psychological challenge, you can seek geriatric behavioral health services—and it will be covered by Medicare.

What Are Geriatric Behavioral Health Services?

Geriatric behavioral health refers to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders in older adults. The doctors and therapists who practice in this area are specially trained in the conditions that typically affect seniors and the treatments that are most effective. Experts in this field are experienced with the mental health triggers that often affect this population, including:

  • Loss of independence
  • Death of a spouse
  • Transitioning to assisted living or a nursing home
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Physical health conditions that can impact mental health

Geriatric behavioral health centers provide psychiatric evaluations, medication management, psychological assessments, and individual and family therapy. Most treatment can be provided on an outpatient basis, but some centers offer inpatient units for more extreme cases. Care is provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed professional counselors. It’s important to realize that it’s never too late to get psychological and emotional support. Far too often, seniors, their families, and their caregivers ignore the importance of mental health services, especially if there are ongoing physical problems to deal with. However, there are solutions to many mental health struggles, and it is worth it to seek them out.

Common Mental Health Conditions Older Adults Experience

Seniors have many of the same psychological struggles that younger people experience. However, their situations might be complicated by dementia, multiple medications, hearing loss, and other factors unique to older people. Many elderly people struggle with:

  • Dementia. While dementia is most often associated with memory loss, people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia also struggle with depression, attention deficit, compulsive disorders, anxiety, impulsivity, and other conditions. A geriatric specialist will develop a treatment plan based on the underlying dementia and the goals for the patient.
  • Depression. Life changes experienced by older people can lead to serious depression. When an elderly person is feeling more than just occasional sadness, it is probably time to seek specialized treatment. People over the age of 65 account for a disproportionate percentage of suicides in the United States each year, so it is vital to recognize and treat depression.
  • Anxiety. Feeling a loss of control over their lives can make older people anxious. Whether it’s caused by moving into assisted living, having a caregiver enter their home, or suddenly living alone, anxiety can be controlled with medication and therapy.
  • Sleep disorders. Many older people experience changes in their sleep patterns. Often, it’s manageable and completely normal. However, insomnia caused by worry and anxiety, medications, or depression can be helped by treating the underlying disorder.
  • Schizophrenia. If a spouse or loved one is experiencing hallucinations, paranoia, a desire for isolation, or other troubling symptoms, they should be evaluated for late-life schizophrenia. Once they are stabilized, they can often lead more normal lives with medication.
  • Compulsive disorders. Whether caused by dementia or not, older adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder can harm themselves and make life difficult for their family members and caregivers. Treatments are available.

Older people often see multiple specialists already, so it can be hard to commit to adding a geriatric behavioral health expert to their care team. However, seniors deserve to live out their lives with as little struggle as possible. This vital health service can help make that possible.

Are You Looking for an Elder Law Attorney in Texarkana, TX?

If you are concerned about the well-being of an older person, it can help to speak with an experienced Medicaid Planning attorney to discuss their options for healthcare as well as getting their affairs in order. Contact us online or call our Texarkana office directly at 903.223.5653. We also have offices in TylerParisLongview as well as Magnolia, AR.


Ben King
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Ben King helps clients in TX and AR with estate planning, asset protection, probate, and medicaid planning.
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