The Importance Of Psychological Screening For The Elderly

Mental health issues among elderly patients are often neglected by General Practitioners. The reason for this could be that symptoms of depression and anxiety are thought of as natural parts of ageing, thereby denying those symptoms proper relief. As with all people suffering depressive cycles, elderly patients may be slow to speak up about the problems they are having. A lack of communication about this issue means they are not offered access to medical services that could be of help to them. This is the case not only for the mental health problems they experience, but also for questions of physical health.

A recent study held by Duke University Medical Centre’s School of Nursing, has done a great service to elderly patients by drawing attention to this issue. The thesis of the study was that elderly patients suffering stress and anxiety not only miss out on mental health care services, but also preventative health services, such as cancer screening. The outcome of the study was that those over 65 are up to 30% less likely to receive such services as the flu vaccine, dental check-ups and breast exams. It was a rare inquiry into the effect of psychological distress on the use of preventative services. Individuals suffering psychological distress may be bereaved, lonely, coping with chronic disease or simply depressed. The survey taken analysed the data of 3,700 individuals from a nationally representative sample; the scale of the study means that results are now being taken very seriously indeed.

The researchers’ recommended solution to this statistic is an innovation in healthcare. The researchers suggest that, in addition to cancer screening, psychological screening should be included in standard treatment of the elderly. General Practitioners must acknowledge that those of an earlier generation do not necessarily have the terminology to express their condition in the way a younger person would, and this can be devastating to their wellbeing. It can also be the case that elderly patients consider mental suffering to be part of their private life, outside the realm of healthcare. Such individuals would benefit from a more expansive view of wellness, which incorporates emotional health at its very heart.

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