Often times, as people get older they experience mental health and psychological problems. Social workers in this field are responsible to be alert of these issues. The truth of the matter is that 1:5 people 55 years or older will experience mental health concerns. Additionally, the suicide rate for people 65 or older is higher than for any other group. In order to combat these overwhelming statistics, it is important for social workers to look for some of the most common mental health problems, such as:
- Depression. Not only is depression the most common health problem, but it is often under diagnosed or under treated, and has the potential to lead to other health problems including suicide. Because of the underdiagnosis and suicide rate of people 65+, social workers should be aware of the “everyday symptoms” of depression. These can include sadness, tiredness, weight loss, difficulties in focusing, or thoughts of death/suicide.
- Dementia. The most common cause of dementia in older adults in Alzheimer’s Disease, which 4 million Americans suffer from or a related form. Unfortunately, since no therapy can reverse the progressive cognitive decline, social workers can provide useful services to the client and caregiver. Specifically, they may focus on alleviating a caregiver’s potential feelings of fatigue, frustration, or inadequacy to help.
- Elder Abuse. Elder abuse can come in many different forms including neglect, physical violence, psychological abuse, and financial exploitation. Caregiving may sometimes result in elder abuse, whether it is intentional or unintentional. In New York State, to report adult abuse, you can call 1-844-697-3505.
- Anxiety. Anxiety in elders can range from the nervousness that one may get before an event, or a full-blown panic attack. Avoidance can also be a sign of anxiety, in which elders may attempt to cope with their stressor by avoiding it.
- Addiction. Of all mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse should be assessed in the most direct way. 5% to 10% of US elders may have an addiction or substance disorder. Many elders have multiple prescriptions that they take daily, making it easier for them to develop an addiction due to the easy accessibility. This addiction may involve alcohol, prescription drugs, and in some cases can be deadly.
All sources come from John Vassello’s Powerpoint “Social Work with Older Adults and with End of Life”.