Geriatric psychotherapy: Growing need
Americans are living longer thanks to an active lifestyle, a healthier diet, exercise and advancements in medicine and healthcare. This trend, combined with historically low birthrates, is transforming America into an older population. By 2030, every baby boomer is expected to be 65 or older, and seniors will make up one in five US citizens.
The growing senior population offers a unique opportunity for those practicing geriatric therapy to help more seniors enjoy their golden years. Continue reading to find out more about issues that are affecting older generations. You will also learn why therapists should start focusing their attention on elder mental illness and how geriatric therapy can help you take your practice to the next step.
ELDER MENTAL HEALTH: WHAT ISSUES AFFECT OLDER FOLKS THE MOST?
Seniors are not necessarily more intelligent than the rest of us just because they have been around for longer. Mental health problems are not uncommon as people age, as they lose their jobs, have their children move away and find themselves with a lot more free time than usual. Let’s look at some common mental issues that older people struggle with.
Many seniors struggle to sleep well due to a combination of factors, such as a lack or exercise, increased medication, and an unhealthy diet. Research suggests that almost half of older adults experience insomnia. Sleep problems can lead to irritability and exhaustion.
The older population is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about drug addicts. Research suggests that there are 5.7 million seniors who suffer from drug addiction. On average, 6 million seniors drink alcohol, 132,000 smoke marijuana and 4,300 take cocaine. In recent years, opioid usage has increased among seniors. Drug addiction is on the rise among seniors.
It’s common for people to spend more time thinking about their lives as they age. Some people may obsessively ruminate about a mistake made 20 years ago because they now have more free time. Someone else might regret pursuing a career they didn’t enjoy. In either case, someone is worrying about something that they cannot control.
Some seniors are naturally predisposed to depression. Others developed the condition after the COVID-19 epidemic. Certain seniors found it difficult to cope with the sudden changes in their lives, coupled with fear of the virus and social isolation.
You will see many people that you love die if you live long enough. Losing a loved one, whether it is an old friend, a family, a spouse or child, can be a difficult time for anyone, even our elders. Bereavement, depending on the way an individual feels it, can turn into a profound and almost crippling grief.
Bereavement may also lead to other emotions and thoughts, such as guilt, anger and regret. Many seniors seek professional help in order to overcome the pain and sadness caused by bereavement and process their feelings of loss.
Many people begin to experience problems as they age. One person might experience mental issues due to chronic pain or deteriorating health. Someone might also have issues with self-esteem as they age and lose their influence and place in the world. These people often choose to speak to a therapist to improve their outlook on life and lead happier lives.
This list is not exhaustive but it will give you an idea of how many different mental health problems can affect seniors.
WHY THERAPISTS NEED TO BE PREPARED TO CARE FOR ELDERS
Here are some reasons you should consider geriatric therapy if you’re not already a therapist:
- The population is not getting younger. The population is getting older due to declining birth rates and an ageing population. Therapists can promote the health and well-being of older adults by preparing for this group. This will benefit their families, friends, communities, as well as the seniors themselves.
- Mental health stigma is fading. Americans used to be reluctant to talk to therapists about mental health problems, but that is changing. As stigma surrounding mental health continues its decline, more and more seniors are willing to try geriatric therapy if only because it is socially acceptable.
- This area is not a popular one. It’s because there aren’t enough therapists who treat seniors. This is partly due to the belief that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. This is a false ageist view.
Now you know why it’s important to improve your skills in geriatric therapy, let’s look at the business side of things: how older patients can impact your practice.
HOW GERIATRIC PSYCHOTHERAPY CAN BENEFIT YOUR PRACTICE
Offering geriatric therapy services will benefit your practice in a number of ways. It allows you to reach a new clientele and increase your bottom line. This is a population that has been traditionally underserved. You may become the only therapist in your town who treats seniors. This could be very lucrative.
Seniors can also grow your business through word-of mouth referrals. You can bet on it that if an elderly client is happy with your service, they will tell their family and friends about you. You might also be able get their family and friends as clients as well, since you’ll all work together on the complex issues of aging, including how it impacts the entire family.
You might find that geriatric therapy is your true calling, depending on your experience. It could help you to reach your full potential and make your job more interesting.