Quality Care for West Virginia Seniors:
Psychologists make significant contributions to care and treatment of our elderly.
Geropsychology is a field within psychology devoted to the study of aging and the provision of clinical services for older adults. As researchers, and clinicians, geropsychologists expand knowledge of the normal aging process and design and test psychological interventions that address problems that commonly arise as people age. As health care practitioners, geropsychologists help older persons and their families overcome problems, enhance well-being, and achieve maximum potential during later life.
Challenges to Quality Care:
- The demand for mental health practitioners with expertise in older adult care will expand as the older population grows. Demand for mental health services is expected to rise as large cohorts of middle-aged individuals—who are more accepting of mental health services than the current generation of older people—move into old age.
- Researchers estimate that almost two-thirds of older adults with a mental disorder do not receive needed services. This problem is particularly acute in rural and underserved groups, such as those living in poverty and some ethnic and racial groups.
- Research suggests that a majority of older adults would want to be treated should they become depressed. When given a choice for the treatment of depression, older adults often prefer psychological services to antidepressant medication. Older adults report feeling comfortable receiving mental health services from qualified mental health professionals.
We advocate for our seniors at both the state and federal level. See below our policy recommendations to improve mental health care for older West Virginians:
- Enhance opportunities for professional training in the psychology of aging at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels of education to address the growing number of older adults in need of mental and behavioral health services.
- Expand basic and applied behavioral research at the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Aging. Increase funding for research training in geropsychology and for the widespread dissemination of evidence-based psychological treatment for mental health problems of older adults.
- Increase the early identification and treatment of older adults with mental health problems through outreach and the provision of services offered in places older adults frequent, such as primary care settings, congregate meal and senior centers, residential settings, libraries, and other community sites.
- Support legislation to increase the availability of and access to effective mental health services for older adults. Barriers to treatment include financial costs; lack of parity between reimbursement of health vs. mental health services; poor recognition and diagnosis of mental health conditions among older adults; lack of programs focusing on older adult mental health issues; reluctance of primary care providers to refer to mental health professionals; transportation; living in a rural or underserved area; and stigma.
- Increase funding through Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant to expand the availability of mental health and related supportive services to older adults.
- Increase coordination of mental and physical health care. Because of the often-complex interplay of physical and mental health problems in older adults, interdisciplinary care is needed to provide optimal care.