Getting mental health care makes the body healthier — especially for the elderly
Taking care of our minds is an often neglected aspect of aging. What are we going to do about it?
- Studies have shown that depression can worsen in our old age.
- Other mental health concerns, too, are not only debilitating on their own but they can often make it more difficult to treat other health conditions.
- However, recent advances in how we treat mental health in the elderly are making a big difference. Here's how.
It's an unfortunate fact of life that as we grow older, our bodies stop working as well as they once did. Our muscles weaken, tying our shoes can send our backs into spasms, our hearing and vision isn't as sharp as it used to be. It's a time when taking care of yourself is more important than ever.
But we often forget that our minds, too, need to be taken care of. According to the CDC, 20% of people over 55 have some kind of mental health concern. Yet only two-thirds of this group receive treatment for their condition. Out of any other group, older men have the highest suicide rate. One study found that older patients were more likely to be diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, and that their depression grew worse with age. Older participants were more likely to have chronic depression, took longer to be in remission, and experienced depression with greater severity, according to the same study.
While mental health is enough of a concern on its own, it can also make treating physical health issues more difficult. "There is no clear-cut demarcation where behavioral health comorbidities start and where physical comorbidities end," said Dr. Joseph Conigliaro, Northwell Health's chief of general internal medicine. "When a patient with diabetes or congestive heart failure or any number of issues also has depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia, providing consistent care becomes much more challenging."
Percentage of older adults who claim they don't receive the social and emotional support they need by state, which can put individuals at risk for developing mental health conditions.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. The State of Mental Health and Aging in America Issue Brief 1: What Do the Data Tell Us? Atlanta, GA: National Association of Chronic Disease Directors; 2008.
Bringing psychiatry to primary care
How can we better meet the mental health needs of elderly patients? In his book, Healthcare Reboot, Michael J. Dowling points to the divide between psychiatry and primary care as a major issue. "While it was true that psychiatrics went to medical school," he writes, "their subsequent clinical training was so far removed from other doctors that they tended to live in a psychiatric silo. In many ways, psychiatrists had walled themselves off from the rest of the medical profession."
A Gallup poll on the perceived honesty of various professions shows another way in which psychiatry has been pushed aside. 85%, 75%, and 70% of respondents reported that nurses, pharmacists, and medical doctors had very high ethical standards, respectively. Only 41% of respondents reported that psychiatrists had very high ethical standards.
One way to bring psychiatry back into the domain of primary care is to do just that; tighten the connections between psychiatrists and general practitioners through the collaborative care model. In this system, a behavioral health care manager and a psychiatrist are incorporated into the primary care setting. The psychiatrist serves as a consultant for the primary care physician and the behavioral health care manager, who could be a psychologist or a nurse trained in managing mental health. The primary care provider has some training in screening patients for mental health issues. Rather than refer them to a psychiatrist, they can instead point them to the behavioral health care manager. This helps normalize the relationship between mental health and primary care and can reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health conditions.
A study on the use of this model for older adults suffering from depression showed resounding success — using the collaborative care model doubled the efficacy of depression treatment. Over twelve months, half of the patients reported an at least 50% reduction in their depression symptoms compared with a 19% reduction in the control group. What's more, the system saves money. For every $1 spent on implementing the collaborative care model, hospitals get $7 back over the course of four years. Today, Northwell Health and other health care organizations have incorporated psychologists and other mental health professionals in their primary care clinics to help deliver the mental health care that elderly patients need.
Virtual reality: Not just for gaming
Addressing mental health issues in the elderly doesn't just have to take place in hospitals and clinics, however. Advances in technology are blurring the lines of where treatment can happen. Rendever, for instance, is a new project by MIT graduates that uses VR to help provide the elderly with mental health treatment. VR has the potential to serve as a powerful therapeutic tool for older adults, especially those in assisted living. Often, older adults in assisted living can feel isolated and trapped in their conditions; VR offers an avenue out of those conditions. In an interview with AARP, a co-founder of Rendever related a story about an isolated former pilot flying a simulated aircraft: "All of a sudden he was sitting in a pilot seat again, and all these stories started bubbling out of him." VR technology like Rendever have been used to treat PTSD, chronic pain, phobias, depression, and drug addiction. There's even some preliminary evidence that VR could be used to keep cognitive function sharp in old age.
From the clinic to the home
One major challenge for the elderly is mobility. It's not always practical for them to travel to a clinic, psychiatrist, or psychologist. The use of "virtual visits" has become increasingly more common for health organizations. Companies like Apple and Samsung are increasingly leveraging their smartphone technologies to provide easier access to healthcare records and tackle chronic conditions. For its part, Northwell researchers have helped pioneer the use of remote intensive care units, or eICUs, to watch over multiple patients at once from a central location.
It may seem as though technology like this wouldn't be useful for psychiatric issues; in fact, the opposite is true. For the elderly, easy access to a psychiatrist may make them more likely to reach out. For patients in assisted-living facilities or unable to travel, "telepsychiatry" is sometimes the only way they can gain access to a psychiatrist.
When it comes to the health of the elderly, a broken hip or a pneumonia diagnosis can overshadow the importance of maintaining a healthy mind in one's older years. Taking care of one's physical health will always be important, especially in geriatric patients, but it doesn't make sense to focus solely on treating a physical health issue while ignoring ongoing mental health concerns. Fortunately, advances in our institutions, systems, and technology are bringing mental health issues back into the spotlight.
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.
81% of women (and 43% of men) have experienced some form of sexual harassment, according to a separate 2018 study.
- Sexual harassment is defined as behavior that is characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances.
- Results of a 2018 survey showed that 81% of women (and 43% of men) had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime.
- According to a new study published by the American Psychological Association, women who do not fit female stereotypes for beauty are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed.
Women who do not fit typical female beauty stereotypes are less likely to be believed as sexual harassment victims<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ1NTg4NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzMwOTI3M30.g_jcERVu9uPRysiJYebwoGkSg62Tti7WiUHLshskYEU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C438%2C0%2C438&height=700" id="9206e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3709bef713dd50c5346f43a13e9f1145" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="sexual harassment complaint form sexual harassment victim" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
The study conducted a series of 11 multi-method experiments, involving over 4,000 participants.
Image by Andrey Popov on Adobe Stock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/apa-shc011221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to a new study</a> published by the American Psychological Association, women who do not fit female stereotypes for beauty are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed.</p><p>"Sexual harassment is pervasive and causes significant harm, yet far too many women cannot access fairness, justice, and legal protection, leaving them susceptible to further victimization and harm within the legal system," says Cheryl Kaiser, Ph.D., of the University of Washington and a co-author of the study says to <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/apa-shc011221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eurekalert.</a></p><p>According to Kaiser, sexual harassment claims were deemed less credible (and the harassment was perceived as less psychologically harmful) when it targeted a victim who was less attractive and/or did not act according to the stereotype of a typical woman. </p><p><strong>The study conducted a series of 11 multi-method experiments, involving over 4,000 participants.<br></strong>This study was designed to investigate the effects a victim's fit to the concept of a typical woman had on participants' view of sexual harassment (and the consequences of that mental association).</p><p><strong>In five experiments, participants read scenarios in which women either did or did not experience sexual harassment.<br></strong>Participants assessed the extent to which these women fit the idealized image of women, either by drawing what they thought the woman might look like or selecting from a series of photos. Across all experiments, participants perceived the targets of sexual harassment as more stereotypical than those who did not experience harassment.</p><p><strong>In the next four experiments, participants were shown ambiguous sexual harassment scenarios which were then paired with descriptions or photos of women who were either stereotypical or not.<br></strong>The participants then rated the likelihood that the incident constituted sexual harassment. According to another author of the study, participants were less likely to label these ambiguous scenarios as sexual harassment when the targets were non-stereotypical women (compared with stereotypical women), despite the fact that, in some cases, the incident was the exact same.</p><p><strong>The final two experiments in this study found that sexual harassment claims were often viewed as less credible when the victim adhered less to the typical female stereotype.<br></strong>Even when a stereotypical woman and non-stereotypical woman submitted the same claim, it was deemed as less credible if the woman was perceived as less feminine. Additionally, the participants found the harassment to be deemed as less psychologically harmful when experienced by a non-stereotypical female.</p><p><em>"Our findings demonstrate that non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed may be vulnerable to unjust and discriminatory treatment when they seek legal recourse," </em>co-author Bryn Bandt-Law, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, explains in an interview to Eurekalert. <em>"</em></p><p><em>If women's nonconformity to feminine stereotypes biases perceptions of their credibility and harm caused by harassment, as our results suggest, it could prevent non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed from receiving the civil rights protections afforded to them by law."</em><br></p><p><strong>**If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or assault, contact the <a href="https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline</a> at 800-656-4673. You are not alone.**</strong></p>
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