Associated Press recently reported that as many as one in five senior citizens suffers from a mental health or substance abuse problem. At least 5.6 million to 8 million Americans 65 and older already report one of these disorders, and these numbers continue to grow as the number of seniors is projected to nearly double by 2030. Unfortunately, according to the Institute of Medicine, most doctors and nurses lack the specialized training necessary to care for this population.
“The burden of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in older adults in the United States borders on a crisis,” says Dr. Dan Blazer of Duke University on the phenomenon, which has been nicknamed The Silver Tsunami. “Yet this crisis is largely hidden from the public and many of those who develop policy and programs to care for older people.” As for substance abuse in seniors, it’s projected increase is yet to be determined–but we do know that rates of illegal drug use are currently higher in boomers in their 50s than they are in older generations.
“This is a wake-up call for many reasons,” said Dr. Ken Duckworth of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He added that the new need for geriatric mental health care “is quite profound for us as a nation, and something we need to attend to urgently.”
Source: The Associated Press