The Importance of Promoting Elder Mental Health Through Seniors’ Therapy
Have you incorporated therapy that is geared towards the aged and aging into your private practice? Do you care for seniors regularly? Have you considered a practice that focuses on this demographic?
If not, it may be time. From an inclusivity and business perspective, as well as the dire need, there are many benefits to promoting elder mental health through seniors’ therapy. Let’s see why…
The growing numbers of the aged
Traditionally, people aged 65 years and older are dubbed “elderly.” The report, 2020 Profile of Older Americans, notes that this group currently accounts for 16% of Americans. This figure is projected to soar over the next two decades.
To put this in context, the authors said, “By 2040, there will be about 80.8 million older persons, more than twice as many as in 2000.”
In terms of practice growth, this means abundant potential. If you can bolster your expertise and tailor your care to provide compassionate, effective treatment for the aged community, there is a growing pool. The sheer volume is incredible. Because, as with other age groups, the elderly need therapy too.
The prevalence of mental illness in the elderly
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s The State of Mental Health report notes one in five people aged 55 years or older experience mental health challenges of one type or another. Anxiety, cognitive impairment, and mood disorders including depression are the most common.
Mental illness can cause or contribute to reduced cognitive, physical, and social function. But those who are older are more likely to have co-morbidities. Depression, for example, can negatively affect or complicate coexisting chronic diseases. This can weave a complex web that requires the insight and benefit of therapy to enhance the quality of life and recovery. In other words, your expertise!
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Senior mental health is often overlooked and under-treated
Sadly, the mental health of seniors is often overlooked and under-treated. This can have catastrophic impacts. Men aged 85 years and over face the highest risk of suicide. Most — up to 75% — have consulted with their medical doctor the month prior to their passing. A staggering 39% are seen during their final week of life.
But, an appropriate diagnosis is regularly missed. For many people, this is their first experience with depression. So, it’s easy to fall under the radar. In addition, chronic disease, medications, and the potential for a differently presenting depression mean those needing therapy often miss out … Even though we know that recovering from a depressed mood can boost the quality of life in the elderly and protect against further functional decline.
And, as you know, therapy is effective for more than mental illness alone. Insomnia, loneliness, low self-esteem, phobias, relationship challenges, stress, and substance abuse don’t have age limits. Yet, these issues regularly remain untreated as health professionals may dismiss these concerns as age-related, and unimportant. In doing so, they dismiss the elderly person sitting in front of them.
Elders need and deserve first-class care, too! So, why aren’t they receiving the therapy they need?
Ageism: Part of the problem
COVID-19 has laid bare inequalities that have been an endemic feature of healthcare rationale. As a United Nations news release reported, a 2020 systematic review found that age determined “who received certain medical procedures or treatments.”
In truth, seniors have been overlooked for an eon. This has significant impacts, including increased isolation and loneliness, reduced quality of life, decreased mental and physical well-being, and, sadly, premature death.
As stated plainly, we as a society tend to undervalue and underserve the elderly. This translates into social underrepresentation and a lack of respect that is not just harmful, it’s potentially lethal.
But this is where you can step in…
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How can you offer seniors’ therapy services?
Therapy offers hope and help to our aged and aging. So, how can you tailor your care to offer treatment for seniors?
9 tips to fine-tune your care
- Undergo further training, if needed
- Be conscious of demographic-specific challenges and implement ways to improve treatment
- For example, how can you better care for clients with visual or auditory problems? What furniture would better suit those with mobility issues or chronic pain? How can you create a more comfortable practice for those with cognitive decline?
- Learn about available government, medical, and other supports so you can advise your clients of the amenities and resources available to them
- Acquire the skills needed to identify and manage elder-abuse
- We all hold biases. Ensure you unpack and eliminate any ageist views that exist within your team
- As we age, it’s no surprise that the prevalence and fear of death increases. Appropriate training in grief work is important
- Choose methods of delivery that work
- For example, can you deliver care to frail clients via telehealth? Where a lack of tech skills exists, could a loved one organize this for a client? If you treat multiple clients within one aged-care facility or setting, could you travel to them?
- Loneliness is common amongst the elderly. If you are interested, group work or a communal class might be an option
- Adapt your advice, where necessary
If you usually recommend a walk to clear the mind, what exercise might help a less physically able client? If you usually advocate journaling, what alternative could be suggested for clients with arthritic hands? If you usually have clients complete a detailed cognitive behavioral therapy workbook, how can you morph this into a more suitable approach for clients with an ailing memory?
Simple ways to offer your services
Once you are ready to begin or expand your presence in the world of seniors’ therapy, it’s time to spread the word. You must let people know this is one of your specialties. Don’t hide your light under a bushel!
To do this, reach out locally…
- Speak to local medical doctors, especially those on the frontline of care. These are the health professionals who first connect with seniors; those most likely to identify a concern. Regular referrals have the potential to spark and maintain practice growth and stability.
- Reach out to neighborhood groups who have, or support, older members.
- Speak at local events.
For more local outreach ideas, read our article, Best Practices to Keep in Mind When Marketing Your Practice Locally.
Now, ensure your online presence is professional and that your practice is findable when people search for eldercare.
There is a range of ways to do this, including search engine optimization (SEO), a beautiful, functional website, social media presence, and directory listings.
Here are our top 4 resources so you can get this right:
- The Ultimate SEO Checklist for Therapists
- Getting the Most Out of Your Private Practice Website: Webinar
- Growing Your Private Practice with Social Media: Webinar
- How To Revamp Directory Listings and Online Reviews To Grow Your Practice
Remember; you can’t help those who don’t know you exist. Marketing is essential so you can help aging and aged people who need your care.
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The strong business case for providing seniors’ therapy
The above aside, there is also an excellent business case for providing therapy to seniors.
This demographic is growing at a startling rate of knots. We are aging and living longer. The result is a huge pool of potential clients. There is also an abundance of need. New and long-term clients are waiting. Many are searching for your expertise.
When we combine the growing numbers of the elderly, plus the rates of mental illness combined with age-related challenges, plus the traction you can gain by educating people (including local health professionals) about the overlooked and under-treated nature of seniors’ mental health, the figures are staggering. So, then, are the prospective profits.
Plus, many therapists serve other specialties. This leaves plenty of room for you to carve out an impactful and prosperous seniors-focused practice. As an elder mental health therapist, you will stand out in positive ways. This not only sets you apart, but it’s wonderful for public relations. This can attract further clients from this niche, and other niches you might serve.
The seniors’ therapy takeaway
American demographics are changing. A huge bulk of our society has walked, or is walking, into their golden years. They need and deserve appropriate, expert therapy. The therapy you can provide.
A practice that includes elder mental healthcare boosts inclusivity, provides a crucial service, and has the potential to explode practice growth and profits. We believe this to be a “win-win-win” situation: the clients win, our communities win, and the therapist — you — win too.
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