Did you know that older adults over the age of 65 represent a significant portion of our population, accounting for 17.4% in Jefferson County and 16.9% nationwide? And that number is projected to double by 2060! Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental well-being of many older adults, leading to increased isolation, depression, anxiety, and other health issues. Recognizing the challenges faced by this vulnerable group, it’s crucial to address mental health problems among older adults and ensure they receive the support they need.
Unfortunately, mental health problems among older adults are often underidentified, both by healthcare professionals and the individuals themselves. There is a stigma surrounding these conditions that makes people reluctant to seek help. As a result, depression, which affects 7% of the general older population, often goes undiagnosed and untreated, particularly in primary care settings. The symptoms of depression can easily be overlooked and untreated because they frequently co-occur with other challenges faced by older adults, such as chronic medical conditions like lung disease, hypertension, or diabetes. It’s important to understand that older people with depressive symptoms often experience poorer functioning compared to those with chronic medical conditions alone. Depression can also increase the perception of poor health, leading to increased utilization of healthcare services and costs.
At Jefferson Center, we have a dedicated team specifically trained to work with older adults. We understand the unique challenges they face and are passionate about providing the care they deserve. Our clinicians work under two different teams: Senior Services Outpatient and Senior Reach.
Our Senior Reach program is a short-term, community-based initiative designed to bring care directly to older adults in the comfort of their own homes. We believe that by removing barriers to access, we can make a meaningful impact on their well-being. Within the Senior Reach program, we offer not only individually tailored therapy but also evidence-based group sessions that cover a range of topics, including hoarding-specific treatment, grief, and loss.
We recognize the importance of working collaboratively with the community to enhance support for older adults in the Jeffco area. We actively engage with community members to advance care and communication. Our team provides community outreach and presentations, ensuring that we capture and support our aging population effectively. We understand that not everyone may have access to robust mental health services due to limitations in Medicare and other commercial insurance benefits. That’s why we work creatively with funders such as DRCOG and Next50 to bridge the gap and provide care for those in need. We strive to ensure that financial constraints do not hinder individuals from receiving the support they deserve.
In addition to our mental health services, we have also partnered with our Wellness team to offer health coaching to the senior community in Lakewood. We believe that mental and physical well-being go hand in hand, and by addressing both aspects, we can foster healthier lives for our seniors. Furthermore, we have developed the Centro Donnes program, providing Senior Reach services specifically for our Spanish-speaking population, because we believe that language should never be a barrier to receiving quality care.
Improving mental health care for older adults is a vital endeavor, considering the challenges they face and the projected increase in their population. At Jefferson Center, we are committed to providing age-specific care, collaborating with the community, and overcoming barriers to ensure that older adults receive the support they need. Together, let’s create a brighter and healthier future for our aging population.
Sources: World Health Organization: Mental Health of Older Adults
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