Psychologists: Shortage Affecting Geriatric Health

As the segment of retiring Americans continues to grow, the demand for psychologists who can help old Americans cope with mental health problems will raise as well. Coupled with new insurance coverage, approximately 6.8 million previously uninsured citizens with mental health illnesses will gain access to treatment, but the problem lies in treatment availability.

Geropsychologists:

  • Use behavioral-based treatments to address primary mental disorders.
  • Focus on mental health of geriatric patients
  • Provide psychological treatment for illness, loss of loved ones, coping with new living situations, insomnia, depression, etc.
  • Of the 32,183 APA members identified as psychologists, only 589 (2%) are Geropsychologists.

With over 20.4% of Americans over the age of 65 (40.3 million in 2010) suffering from a mental health disorder, the percentage of psychologists that specialize in elderly mental health issues (geropsychologists) is only 4.2%. Despite these numbers, less than 3% of elderly Americans who suffer from mental disorders seek help as a result of lack of funding, lack of collaboration across care providers, and lack of professionals trained to treat geriatric mental health problems.

What are potential solutions to the lack of psychologists available to elders? How much funding would it require to address such a large patient demand? How can seniors become aware of the signs mental health symptoms?

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/aging/growing-concerns.aspx

http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/health-care/profession.aspx

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304281004579218204163263142

http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/about-massey/news/article.cfm?mnarticle=study-explores-who-cares-for-the-carers-17-01-2011

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