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The Clinic on Dupont Toronto

Mental Health and Seniors – A Vulnerable Population

seniors-mental-health

Mental health is an important factor in a person’s overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety can affect people of all ages and from all walks of life. While younger adults are more likely to seek treatment, seniors may hesitate to get help for many reasons. The following are some of the many challenges seniors may face when it comes to recognizing and seeking treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Mixed messages

The signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety can be numerous and varied. Especially in seniors, who often suffer from other medical conditions, signs of mental health problems can be easily missed or confused for those of other illnesses. Many seniors have been dealing with physical challenges for years and may write off issues with mental health as simply “part of getting older.” It is important to note that taking care of depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns can have a major impact on seniors’ overall health and may lead to amelioration of other seemingly unrelated physical symptoms.

Multiple medications

Seniors are one of the most vulnerable populations susceptible to side effects arising from polypharmacy. Most seniors get pharmaceutical treatment for several comorbid conditions and usually do so under the care of separate specialists; this means that very few have a unified list of medications. Interactions between medications can often create symptoms that elicit the prescription of even more drugs. In addition, polypharmacy has the potential to exacerbate existing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

Taboo topics

Despite the veritable cascade of knowledge surrounding mental health in the medical field over the past few decades, there remains a stigma surrounding mental health amongst older adults. It is often believed that depression, anxiety, and similar conditions are the result of weak moral character or simply “not trying hard enough” to be happy. It is also often considered inappropriate to talk about such things in case others will find out, much less seek professional help for something that is “all in your head.” Unfortunately, many seniors suffer in silence with very real problems stemming from untreated depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

It’s never too late!

The good news is that there are treatment options out there! Whether through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the judicious use of specific medications, or other methods, depression, and anxiety can be effectively addressed using evidence-based treatments. There is also strong evidence to support the fact that the maintenance of mental wellbeing is vital to the maintenance of overall wellbeing. This applies to people of all ages, but especially seniors, who are often marginalized within the health care system in general.

Aging brings about many challenges; these may include learning to find meaning outside of work post-retirement, continuing to stay active despite physical challenges, and learning to cope with the inevitable loss of friends and loved ones as they too grow older. However, there is no reason that seniors cannot continue to thrive when provided with the right care- emotionally, physically and mentally.

The Clinic on Dupont is dedicated to providing individualized treatments for all of our clients – we pride ourselves on offering a diverse range of mental health services including our specialty, CBT, to clients of all ages. With guidance from our caring clinicians, you will find that there is a solution and that, unlike wrinkles, depression and anxiety are not simply part of growing older. Please feel free to contact us to learn more!

Posted August 12, 2016
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