Mental health conditions are not a normal part of aging: Dr. Brad Lucas – cleveland.com

Posted: June 22, 2020 at 3:47 pm

This post was added by Alex Diaz-Granados

Guest columnist Dr. Brad Lucas, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN who is committed to bringing the strengths of payers and providers together to deliver efficient and effective health care. His expertise is critical to the development and implementation of programs that improve clinical outcomes and ensure high-quality care across all medical conditions for Ohioans.

Symptoms of mental health conditions in older adults are often seen as a normal part of aging. But the statistics tell another story.

Depression -- the most common condition in older adults -- has increased by 15 percent over the past six years in Ohioans 65 and older. It now impacts about 1 in 8 older Ohioans, ranking the state 14th in the nation for the number of older adults struggling with depression.

As with other serious illnesses, mental illness is not the fault of the patient or their caregivers; however, widespread misunderstanding around mental health conditions remains. Left untreated, mental health problems can lead to fatigue, illness or even suicide.

Older adults have the highest suicide rate in the country. Studies have repeatedly found that two-thirds or more of older adults who killed themselves had been in a primary care providers office in the last 30 days of life -- and up to half within one week of their suicide. In Ohio, suicide increased 33 percent, from 11.8 to 15.7 deaths per 100,000 adults ages 65 and older over the past four years.

The impact of social isolation

Social isolation is a major contributor to mental health conditions in older adults, with 1 in 5 Americans ages 65 and older reported to be socially isolated. This occurs when people withdraw and become disconnected from family, friends and the community.

It can be brought on suddenly with the loss of a spouse or partner, or happen more gradually with separation from friends or family, chronic health conditions and transportation challenges.

Studies suggest that social isolation increases mortality in older adults, and illnesses and conditions such as chronic lung disease, arthritis, impaired mobility and depression are all linked to it, said Laura Paynter, director of behavioral health for Buckeye Health Plan.

Dont assume that feeling like this is part of getting older. At Buckeye, we encourage our older members to learn the signs of social isolation. We can connect them with mental health specialists, resources and support.

Understand the signs of social isolation:

Deep boredom, general lack of interest and withdrawal

Losing interest in personal hygiene

Poor eating and nutrition

Significant disrepair, clutter and hoarding at home

Take action to address social isolation

For those struggling or at risk for social isolation, Buckeye recommends seeking social opportunities that build your network and help you feel connected to others:

If you cant visit with family members and friends, be sure to call often

Join a group exercise class, as physical activity is good for body and mind

Give back and volunteer with an important cause

Get involved with the local senior center, where many activities and group outings take place

Consider learning something new through a hobby or continuing education program

Buckeye supports our members dealing with the realities of being socially isolated, said Paynter. We offer support services and access to resources to improve their wellbeing, like our Buckeye Community Connect resource portal and behavioral health crisis line to support members emotional needs.

Readers are invited to submit Opinion page essays on topics of regional or general interest. Send your 500-word essay for consideration to Ann Norman at anorman@cleveland.com. Essays must include a brief bio and headshot of the writer. Essays rebutting todays topics are also welcome.

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Mental health conditions are not a normal part of aging: Dr. Brad Lucas - cleveland.com

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