Call it ‘stealth mental health’ — some care for elders helps more without the label

The pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues among older adults, a group that already struggles with access to care, prompting strategies that subtly introduce mental health services.

Key Challenges: Fewer than half of older adults who require mental health care receive it due to a variety of factors.
* Many professionals are under-trained to deal specifically with mental health needs of older adults, making it hard for them to find appropriate care.
* Insurance coverage and cost, specifically that Medicare doesn’t currently reimburse all types of mental health providers, although this is due to change in the upcoming year.
* Also, stereotypes about aging can interfere with treatment availability, with misconceptions that depression or anxiety are normal parts of aging when in fact these conditions can be treated effectively.

New Approaches: ‘Stealth mental health’ is a method being deployed that presents mental health services subtly to avoid stigmatisation.
* In New York City, where there is a large and diverse population of seniors, the city is bringing mental health services to senior centres, offering these services in various languages.
* Activities such as workshops on journaling and gratitude at these centres allow seniors to open up about their issues, offering an approachable segue into more serious discussions.
* This type of care has been expanded to 88 senior centres across New York City, and is offered free of cost to seniors.

Private Market Struggles: Despite progress in public-care avenues, problems persist in the private market.
* Older individuals on fixed incomes, like 76-year old Susan Ford from San Francisco who relies mostly on Social Security, struggle to afford private mental health therapy.
* Ford receives her therapy at a reduced rate with a therapist in training, a model that may not be widely available.

View original article on NPR

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