Institute of Medicine Report: 1 in 5 Boomers With Mental Health Issue

There is a tendency to underestimate the actual risk of suffering mental and physical disabilities as one ages. Everyone knows that seniors often face physical issues and others suffer from cognitive problems, but most relatively healthy individuals convince themselves that they are less likely to face those concerns down the road. In our area, this self-denial often means that individuals put off creating a New York elder law estate plan. The consequence is that many only look into the issue after suffering an emergency. Available options are always less attractive when planning in the face of immediate need.

Everyone needs to plan, regardless of their current mental and physical state. That fact was made even more evident following the release last week of a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Entitled, “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?”, the project was commissioned by Congress to better understand the long-term mental health and wellbeing needs of seniors. The full report can be read HERE.

What were the findings?

In a nutshell: mental health issues among seniors (and soon-to-be-retired Baby Boomers) is far more widespread than many previously suspected. Investigators found that nearly 20% of all older adults have some sort of mental health and substance abuse condition. This include things like alcohol dependency, depression, dementia-like conditions, and similar problems. However, it does not include those receiving an actual Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Considering the size of the senior population, these are not small numbers. Nearly 8 million seniors currently suffer from one of these problems. If the percentage holds, then that number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million in the next two decades.

Our New York elder law attorneys know that these results are alarming on their face and made even more problematic by the lack of current resources available to help those with these issues. As a Health Day article recently observed, there is currently a woeful lack of caregivers who are properly trained to deal both with mental health issues (like depression and substance abuse) as well as the physical problems that come naturally with an aging body. In other words, without an increase in these caregivers, it is likely that many seniors will not receive the close care they need in their golden years for want of resources. That is particularly true for those who have not prepared for possible long-term care ahead of time. Those relying on government support will probably be most affected by shortages in proper caregiving options.

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