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Older adults rarely get evaluated and treated for their mental health—even if a significant portion of the population greatly suffers from related conditions. A geriatric psychiatrist from Los Angeles, Dr. Daniel Plotkin, revealed that older people find it harder to seek treatment because of cultural stigmas.
Unfortunately, even older adults who are open to professional mental help struggle with getting the right treatments due to Medicare coverage issues and mental healthcare worker shortages. With one in four senior citizens having at least one mental illness, we can’t risk these barriers to proper healthcare. Accessible services, like remote geriatric counseling, will be essential for the overall wellness of older adults and here’s why:
Geriatric care is usually focused on the physical illnesses of older adults because they have an increased risk of chronic diseases. However, most people fail to consider that physical and mental health are also intertwined.
In fact, Managed Healthcare Executive states that chronic conditions can cause or worsen older adults’ depression and anxiety. As such, senior citizens with both physical and mental illnesses use 50-100% more healthcare services and pay about 50% higher healthcare costs than non-depressed seniors. To prevent the worsening of their physical and mental conditions, it’s important to eliminate the common barriers that prevent older adults from getting the mental health services that they need.
Contrary to popular belief, mental health does not just affect one’s mind. Stress and other mental conditions have physical effects, thus making access to remote geriatric counseling services crucial.
Our article on ‘The Physical and Mental Effects on Your Body’ explains that your body’s stress response can increase your blood glucose, blood pressure, and heart rate. While this response is normal for a short period, prolonged stress can be dangerous for older adults because it can cause or even worsen heart diseases, digestive problems, and mental illnesses. Given that remote geriatric counseling can ease stress, older adults can easily reduce their risk for these illnesses.
Physician shortages are a major concern in several US states, thus making it difficult for older adults to get in touch with reliable mental health professionals.
To address this shortage, a demand for remote physicians in Arizona has opened up so that individuals and families can get primary and urgent care every day of the week. Thanks to telehealth platforms, older adults can get in touch with these licensed providers to get remote geriatric counseling and other healthcare services. This can be life-changing for senior citizens in Arizona and other states with physician shortages because they don’t need to travel far or wait too long to receive counseling sessions from a competent psychiatrist.
Apart from being accessible and convenient to older adults, remote counseling sessions can also reduce the health expenses of patients suffering from mental health conditions.
For example, the Veterans Health Administration generated savings of $1,999 annually for every veteran patient that was treated through telemedicine. Due to the efficacy of remote mental healthcare services, patients are able to cut costs from their commutes and waiting times. Most importantly, the remote geriatric counseling sessions were also helpful in decreasing the hospitalization and in-care treatment costs of patients, thus leading to greater cost savings for senior citizens.
Mental health conditions affect Americans from all walks of life. Given that senior citizens also suffer from mental illnesses, it's critical that they can get services that are cost-effective, accessible, and of quality, and remote counseling is exactly that.
Article contributed by Reanna Jeffers
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