Only half of older adults with mental health problems receive treatment from any provider (over half of those get it from their primary care physician). Only 3% of seniors with mental health problems get treatment from a mental health professional. But untreated depression increases an elderly person's risk of death, according to Burton V. Reifler, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Wake Forest University.
Explanations for why older people are underserved vary. According to the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, they include the following.
- Stigma and a denial of problems by the patient
- Access barriers, especially for people with mobility issues
- Lack of collaboration and coordination between mental health professionals and other service providers
- A shortage of geriatric psychiatrists and psychologists
- Financial barriers, as older patients on a fixed income may not be able to afford antidepressants