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Depression and Older Adults - Heritage Program

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hospital news

Change is constant in our lives, but as one grows older, changes in health, job, family, roles, and the loss of loved ones all present a greater challenge to our coping skills. When one is younger, there are more supports available. There is work to focus on, to stay busy with. There is a family to rear. For the most part, there is good health. The individual is able to drive and go and come as he/she pleases. Changes are perhaps, easier to manage because of these circumstances and the support of family and friends. However, for many older adults coping with change may be more difficult and can lead to depression.


To some extent, depression affects us all and the majority of us are able to cope with it and move on due in part to supports, coping skills, experiences that have helped us deal with change. Clinical depression is more debilitating and can result in a decrease in the ability to function and interfere with quality of life. Clinical depression is estimated to affect over six million older adults, but of these it is estimated that only ten percent ever get help.
Depression is a mental health disorder which is often under recognized and under treated in America, particularly with older adults. It can be seen as normal and part of the aging process. The side effects of some health problems such as diabetes, cardiac problems or strokes that result in body aches, joint pains, headaches and other physical discomforts can mimic or hide those also associated with depression. Depression can affect memory and concentration which can also be associated with dementia.


Older adults have four times the risk of becoming depressed as the population in general. The Institute of Mental Health estimates that the financial impact on society of untreated depression at $56 billion due to lost productivity, disability and medical costs. Suicide may be an outcome of untreated depression.


Older adults who may be suffering from depression often do not seek treatment because they associate depression as a normal part of aging, because of fear or the stigma associating mental health treatment as being for ‘crazy’ people, or as a sign of weakness. Sometimes the symptoms of hopelessness or lack of energy affect them to the point that they do not reach out for help.
Resources to address this depression and improve quality of life are available.


The Heritage Program for Older Adults is one such resource. Located at 108 Page Street, it has been providing intensive outpatient mental health services to the older adult community for the past 16 years. With a multi disciplinary staff that includes a psychiatrist, social worker, licensed counselor, nurse and mental health worker, individuals are provided an initial assessment to determine needs and benefits of attending the program. Group therapy is the primary modality as it facilitates interaction with other seniors that may be going thru similar situations , lessens the isolation that may be contributing to their depression, reduces the sense of ‘why me’, and increases support and problem solving ideas when they hear from their cohorts.


Attending on average three half days in the morning, the amount of time is titrated down as the individual shows improvement. Individual counseling and family counseling are other modalities that are utilized, depending on the patient’s needs.


Costs are covered by Medicare as well as certain other insurances. Referrals can come from doctor’s, other agencies, family members or individuals themselves.


Depression does not have to be suffered in silence. With early diagnosis and treatment a person’s quality of life can be improved. The “Golden Years” can indeed be golden by helping individuals maintain a high degree of functioning and independence.
For additional information, one can call 778-3629.