Lifeline Connections

Mental Health and the Elderly

When we think of the challenges faced by the elderly we often think of common problems like Alzheimer’s, hypertension or diabetes. However the elderly also face higher rates of depression and anxiety. Men over the age of 55 have the highest suicide rate of any other age group. Yet only 1 in 3 of the elderly who suffer from a mental health disorder gets help.

Substance Use in the Elderly

Substance use disorder is also prevalent. Approximately 17% of those above 65 have some type of substance use disorder. It is often overlooked due to an array or reasons. There are two classifications in the elderly. 1. “hardy survivors.” Hardy Survivors are those suffering from a substance use disorder for many years. 2. “late-onset.” Late onset describe those who develop a substance use disorder in their later years. SUDs in the elderly are a concern because the effects are more potent and damaging with age.

Diagnosing the Disorders Correctly

Substance use disorders in the elderly can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms overlap with those of depression, diabetes or dementia. For example, someone might be suffering from memory impairments that are caused by an alcohol use disorder but doctors will often test for common disorders like dementia. Other mental health disorders like anxiety are suspected to be under diagnosed due to reluctance to report symptoms.

Other things can put them at a higher risk like a death in the family, retirement, economic strains or trouble sleeping. There are treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy that is proven helpful. Medications are also helpful, like Naltrexone. It is a safe drug for the elderly and is used to help those suffering from nicotine or alcohol use disorder.

There are many different ways to combat mental health disorders and each patient is different. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, like depression or anxiety, please contact the professional team at Lifeline Connections. You can visit or call 360.397.8246 for more information.


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