SpeechPathology.com Phone: 800-242-5183


eLuma Online Therapy - Love What You Do 1 - May 2021

Most Common Mental Health Problem in Older Adults

Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLP, Jennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP

September 20, 2021

Share:

Question

What is the most common mental health problem in older adults?

Answer

Depression is the most common mental health problem among our older population. Nearly a quarter of the 600,000 people who experience stroke in a given year will experience clinical depression. This is an important statistic because it goes back to the fact that mental health issues, mainly depression, are a huge barrier to helping our patients meet their goals.  We need to utilize tools for developing our plan of care that help us identify all of the barriers. For example, the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health is a tool used to develop care plans that take into account not only barriers but positive factors that we consider for the plan of care.

Depression affects patient motivation, the ability to focus and attend, and the ability to concentrate and meet goals.  People aged 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any age group, which is startling. Additionally, two-thirds of seniors with mental health problems do not get the treatment that they need, which makes our jobs even more important in helping to identify these issues.

There are three different depression types: major depression, persistent depressive disorder, and minor depression.  The most significant difference between these has to do with time. Major depression is identified by the symptoms that most of us are familiar with: trouble sleeping, eating, enjoying life, et cetera. But the time factor is what is taken into account with diagnosing major depression. These are severe episodes that happen frequently. The individual will have several episodes and then they have about a two-month timeframe in between where there is no depression. So major depression happens in episodes with a period of two months or more in between those episodes.

Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) is when a person demonstrates the same symptoms as in major depression, however, the timeframe is a lot longer with episodes lasting two years or more.  So, this is a chronic condition that lasts for a long period of time. That's the difference between major depression and persistent depressive disorder.

Minor depression has symptoms that are not as serious as those in major depression or PDD. They are minor symptoms but it's not as simple as “being blue.” Everybody gets "the blues" once in a while. Minor depression includes the same symptoms, they just aren’t as severe and they don’t last quite as long.

Depression is more common in people who have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer) or whose functioning becomes limited. That definitely pertains to a lot of our patients that we see who are suffering from a major trauma, a chronic illness, stroke, Parkinson's disease, etc. Those individuals are more likely to suffer from depression.

Older adults are often misdiagnosed and undertreated for their depression. There is actually a lot of research about older adults being afraid to bring the topic up to their physicians or healthcare providers. They're concerned with the stigma that's attached to being depressed. I think our older population has more of that stigma idea than the younger populations do, but they're often not treated the way they should be as far as their depression is concerned.  Additionally, studies by the CDC estimate that 7 million American adults over the age of 65 experience depression each year.

Refer to the SpeechPathology.com course, Mental Health and Aging: An Introduction for Healthcare Professionals, for more information on the most common mental health diagnoses found in the elderly population, including risk factors and symptoms. 


megan l malone

Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLP

Megan Malone is a speech-language pathologist working as a clinical faculty member in Kent State University's Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology and as a clinician and consultant in home health care. She previously worked for 9 years as a senior research associate and lead trainer at Myers Research Institute, in Cleveland, OH where she oversaw federally/privately funded grants focused on implementing interventions with older adults with dementia. She is the co-author of the book, Here's How to Treat Dementia (Plural Publishing, 2013), has spoken numerous times at the annual conventions of the American Speech and Hearing Association, Gerontological Society of America, American Society on Aging, and the Alzheimer's Association, along with several state speech and hearing conventions. She has published articles in the Journal of Communication Disorders, Alzheimer's Care Quarterly, The Gerontologist, and Dementia.


jennifer loehr

Jennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP

Jennifer Loehr is a speech-language pathologist with over 30 years experience working in the healthcare setting.  She is currently employed by Encompass Health - Home Health and Hospice as a Field Integration Lead overseeing onboarding and training of field staff across all disciplines and service lines. Jennifer has presented at numerous national conventions on the topics of dementia care, regulatory issues, and home health practice management.  She served on the PDGM technical expert panel for CMS representing the American Speech and Hearing Association. She has published articles and participated in podcasts for ASHA and the ASHA Leader, the Journal of Communication Disorders, and is the co-author of the book, Here’s How to Treat Dementia (Plural Publishing, 2013).

 


Related Courses

Mental Health and Aging: An Introduction for Healthcare Professionals
Presented by Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLP, Jennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Video

Presenters

Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLPJennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Course: #9745Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'The instructor was very knowledgeable in this area and provided helpful resources'   Read Reviews
This course defines the most common mental health diagnoses found in the elderly population, including risk factors and symptoms. Further instruction is provided on preventing caregiver burnout and other action items for the healthcare professional working with patients with mental illness.

continued Conversations, The CE Podcast: Dementia Assessment and Treatment
Presented by Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLP, Jennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Audio

Presenters

Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLPJennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Course: #9008Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Two way presentation'   Read Reviews
Megan Malone and Jenny Loehr review assessment and treatment of dementia, beginning with an overview of different types of dementia and concluding with goal development and treatment. This is an audio-only podcast with references and further resources included as handouts.

Brain Health Basics: Strategies for SLPs to Support Healthy Aging for Adult Patients
Presented by Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLP, Jennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Video

Presenters

Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLPJennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Course: #9785Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Specific examples were provided on how to incorporate strategies into our sessions'   Read Reviews
This Back to Basics course focuses on the preventative aspect of improving brain health with adult patients, with emphasis on elements that SLPs can target during instruction or counseling aspects of patient treatment and caregiver support. Additional information is provided on advocacy for these services and community outreach to organizations working with older adults.

Alzheimer's 101: An Overview for Healthcare Professionals
Presented by Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLP, Jennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Video

Presenters

Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLPJennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Course: #8009Level: Introductory2 Hours
  'applies to the population that I work with'   Read Reviews
This course will provide an overview for the healthcare professional about Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Participants will learn strategies related to improving communication with patients and families, understanding and managing behavioral challenges, and promoting independence.

Diagnosis Dementia: Working with Patients with Dementia in Home Care under PDGM
Presented by Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLP, Jennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Video

Presenters

Megan L. Malone, MA, CCC-SLPJennifer Loehr, MA, CCC-SLP
Course: #9166Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Good introduction into recent changes'   Read Reviews
This course will provide SLPs working in home health care with an overview of the Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) for reimbursement and discuss how services for patients with dementia fit into this model. Strategies for working with patients and families will be discussed.