The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that approximately 16.1 million adults suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2015, or 6.7% of the population. While depression is increasing in the millennial population, there are also millions of seniors who suffer from depression, too.
Psychiatric care was seen as shameful in the past, when many seniors came of age, and that stigma continues to permeate American culture today. As a result, mental illness among the elderly often goes undiagnosed. This can lead not only to emotional challenges for elderly patients without psychiatric care, but also various health problems.
Health problems in elderly patients suffering from depression
Depression is experienced differently by older adults than it is by younger adults. In the senior population, major depressive disorder may exhibit itself with symptoms such as cognitive impairments, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and physical complaints. These symptoms often coincide with generalized symptoms of aging, which can often leave an elderly patient’s mental illness overlooked.
However, if family members or health care providers are aware of a mental illness, they may brush a physical ailment or medical problem off as a symptom of the mental illness. For a variety of reasons, depression often leads to improper diagnoses in older patients. For instance, the development of depression may be a sign of mental illness or may also be an early sign of dementia.
A study conducted by the University of California San Diego found that up to one in three elderly patients referred to a psychiatric hospital actually needed medical care for a physical health problem. At the same time, many seniors are prescribed medication or given treatment for physical pain that is actually a symptom of depression.
These mistakes are why it is so important to watch out for the signs of mental health problems and obtain an accurate diagnosis.
How best to treat elderly patients with depression
If a depressive episode is making it difficult for a person to function or care for themselves, then an acute psychiatric hospital may be the right choice. Specifically, a neuropsychiatric geriatric care facility may be a great option for those elderly patients suffering from major depressive disorder or another psychiatric disorder such as PTSD or Bipolar Disorder.
The psychiatric doctors at these inpatient mental health facilities are able to properly provide psychiatric care while being fully aware of any other underlying medical issues. As a result, you can be sure that physical ailments will be properly treated, and that the doctors will be able to identify true physical ailments and symptoms of mental health disorders. Consult with your doctor or caretaker to determine whether a long term psychiatric stay may be beneficial to your health.