Coming up in my particular neighborhood in Little Rock, Ark., one of my dearest childhood friends was a boy we nicknamed something unflattering but — except for the meanest among us kids — treated with great kindness. He was “just slow,” we said, and left it at that.
The armchair analyst in me concluded, when we were teens, that my friend was mildly retarded (in the vernacular of that time). He also suffered sometimes-paralyzing bouts of depression. All these decades later, he remains a beloved treasure. I call him brother. He’s still a fixture in our hometown neighborhood, self-medicating with weed and, sometimes, crack. He’s snaggle-toothed, his skin an ashen gray. He looks way older than the rest of us. People with chronic, severe mental illness tend to die earlier than the rest of us. Continue reading
Covering mental health issues among older adults first means understanding the differences between issues of social isolation, loneliness, depression, and the effect of cognitive decline. Each issue may affect a person or several may be occurring simultaneously. Don’t interchange the terms however, because they’re not the same condition.
At last week’s Journalism Workshop on Aging and Health in Los Angeles, panelists stressed the importance of getting it right. You can be alone, but not lonely, or socially isolated. You can be socially isolated but not lonely. You can be either, or both. Continue reading
We know social isolation and loneliness are detrimental to health, particularly among the older adult population. It’s a problem that seems to be getting worse, according to this recent report from Pew Research.
It found that, on average, U.S. adults over age 60 spend more than half of their waking hours alone and for those who live by themselves, that’s as much as 10 hours a day, compared with about half that rate for people in their 40s and 50s. Continue reading
I wrote in a previous blog about the importance of understanding confounding by indication and being sure to ask researchers about it when covering observational studies that appear to suggest a particular treatment or intervention might contribute to a specific effect. I’m passionate about this type of study bias because not considering it — which happens a LOT — can lead people to decline otherwise helpful treatments or leave them experiencing more harm and pain because of unfounded fears. Continue reading
Mental and physical health often go hand in hand, but for many older adults, mental health conditions can be missed or misdiagnosed. Conditions such as depression and anxiety are common and may be indicators of or stem from more serious illnesses, like Parkinson’s or heart disease, as this new tip sheet explains.
Stigma, self-blame, and lack of training among physicians to recognize mental health issues are just some of the reasons that fewer than 3% of older Americans seek help for mental health issues, according to this Health Affairs article. Geropsychologists are trained to deal with the specific needs of older adults, but are in short supply. Continue reading
Habitat for Humanity and Johns Hopkins have teamed up to implement the CAPABLE program, in six new areas across the United States. The goal is to improve the lives of low-income older adults.
Community Aging in Place — Advancing Better Living for Elders, was co-developed by Sarah L. Szanton, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON) professor for health equity and social justice to support aging-in-place services for this vulnerable, high-risk, high-needs population. Continue reading