Friday, July 13, 2012

It Appears Baby Boomers Face More Than Gray Hair!

Turns out baby boomers need to worry about more than gray hair!
Some people look forward to growing older. It's true. They look forward to retirement, traveling, enjoying their home, spending time with their spouse or partner, perhaps being a grand-parent, or volunteering for favorite causes.  Did you ever experience the death of a dear friend or family member who was just retired or about to retire?  It can be heartbreaking and a powerful reminder of the fragility of our physical health. In May 2012, baby boomers were cautioned to be tested for Hep-C. Now baby boomers are being warned that there is a good chance they will face a mental health care crisis in their senior years.

It seems that this anticipated mental health care crisis results not only from the sheer number of baby boomers who will reach retirement over the next two decades, but also the fact that our country is short on doctors, nurses and mental health workers who have the necessary training to work with seniors.

CBSNEWS Healthwatch provided the following observations from their interview with Dr. Peter Rabins, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins and co-author of the report:

  • People over 65 almost always have physical health problems at the same time that can mask or distract from the mental health needs. The physical illnesses, and medications used for them, also can complicate treatment. For example, up to a third of people who require long-term steroid treatment develop mood problems that may require someone knowledgeable about both the medical and mental health issues to determine whether it is best to cut back the steroids or add an antidepressant, Rabins said. On the other side, older adults with untreated depression are less likely to have their diabetes, high blood pressure and other physical conditions under control - and consequently wind up costing a lot more to treat.
  • Age alters how people's bodies metabolize alcohol and drugs, including prescription drugs. That can increase the risk of dangerous overdoses, and worsen or even trigger substance abuse problems.
  • Grief is common in old age as spouses, other relatives and friends die. It may be difficult to distinguish between grief and major depression.
This study was completed by the Institute of Medicine and was chaired by Dr. Dan Blazer of Duke University.  Like the invisible wound of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many symptoms experienced by seniors include depression and substance abuse disorder. These symptoms may be overlooked by their doctors, family members and friends, as everyone is looking for obvious physical ailments. Take time to be informed and stay alert for your own well-being and that of your family members.

 "Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen."  Mark Twain 
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