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Senior Depression – Mental Health Services in Long-Term Care Facilities

For seniors who live independently, mental health is largely dependent on their capacity for self awareness and their willingness to seek appropriate care. For those living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, the situation is a little more tenuous. As the numbers show, depressive and behavioral disorders are prevalent in these settings. In addition to the usual stresses associated with aging, such as loss of loved ones, physical deterioration, and fears related to death, seniors in long-term care facilities often struggle with increased isolation and debilitating physical ailments, which can exacerbate latent mental issues. Since residents of senior facilities are often in poor health and have decreased cognitive functioning, it`s not always easy to evaluate and treat these individuals.

How Medicare Helps Seniors with Depression The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 stipulated screenings for mental illness and the reduced use of physical and chemical restraints. As part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA), this law mandated some pivotal changes in nursing home care, emphasizing quality of life. In 1990, Congress responded by revising the Medicare laws, specifying beneficiaries will receive mental health care, if needed. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover blanket screening procedures. This renders it virtually impossible to uncover hidden symptoms that residents sometimes hide to avoid stress and shame. In 2002, however, Medicare recognized the value of psychological services coinciding with the management of medical conditions. I translate this as such: if you’re already physically very ill, your mental health is important. If depression or mental illness is detected, and a doctor refers the resident to a psychiatrist, Medicare will cover 50 percent of the approved amount. This is a hefty co-payment, especially in relation to the 80 percent Medicare covers for doctor;s office visits.

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