How Medicare Can Help Seniors Access Mental Health Resources

This page is for informational purposes only. Dr. Maples is not contracted with Medicare to provide services, as he is a licensed psychotherapist and Medicare does not contract with his form of licensure. For more information on individuals that contract with Medicare, please see the section: Finding Professionals That Accept Medicare below.

The Importance of Self Care and Mental Health for Senior Citizens

More attention is being paid to the importance of self-care and mental health. Society is changing and making it easier for people to get help, as people are becoming more comfortable disclosing their struggles with depression. Mental health experts, institutions, and other entities are also paying attention to depression in senior citizens. Medicare Part B can help senior citizens get access to the resources that can help them manage depression.

Depression in Senior Citizens

We often think of depression as a feeling of sadness, but there’s more to it. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) say that depression is a mood disorder that can disrupt daily routines. Suddenly, individuals may find it harder to stay motivated or have a harder time sitting still.

Depression is a mental health condition, not a defect or personal quirk. The disorder can affect older adults and isn’t a regular part of aging. Risk factors for depression in seniors include being female, poor sleep, social isolation or loneliness, dealing with a chronic condition or illness, having a disability, drug or alcohol misuse, a genetic predisposition (family history) of depression, and stressful life events. The holiday season can also trigger symptoms.

Older adults are less likely to be diagnosed with depression than people in other age groups. Doctors may mistakenly believe that depression is a normal reaction to changes that occur later in life. Even patients who deal with it may agree that they’re simply reacting to recent events and decide not to seek medical treatment. The CDC estimates that only 1 to 5 percent of senior citizens experience depression. Persons who need to be hospitalized or need additional home care experience depression at a rate of 11.5 to 13.5 percent.  

Talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms such as feeling sad or empty, moving or speaking more slowly, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, irritability, continued feelings of sadness, and pain that seems to have no cause for two weeks or more. In more serious cases, some people begin to have thoughts of suicide. 

Treatment for depression often includes counseling and antidepressants. Doctors will consider side effects and interactions if they prescribe antidepressants because senior citizens often take medications for other conditions. 

What Medicare Part B Can Cover

Medicare Part B can help senior citizens get the resources they need to deal with depression. The program can help patients pay for the treatment with doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, clinical nurses, and physician’s assistants. 

Inpatient, outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs are covered as long as the doctor accepts Medicare. Services covered can be provided in settings such as a doctor’s office, outpatient departments at hospitals, and community health clinics or centers. 

Under Medicare Part B, you can expect coverage for outpatient services such as an annual depression screening, physical exam; family, group, or individual counseling, management of your prescription medications, and diagnostic exams.

Medicare plans change every year, so make sure you check your plan and verify whether the services you need will be covered. Talk to your doctor if you notice that certain services aren’t covered. You can ask them if Medicare will cover the treatments and services you will need in the upcoming year.

Health Insurance and Psychotherapy
Know What Options Your Health Insurance Covers

Finding Professionals That Accept Medicare

Medicare Part B only covers the mental health services if your provider accepts an assignment. You can use Medicare’s Physician Compare to find healthcare professionals that will accept your plan. If you already have a doctor you’re working with, type in their first or last name to see if they appear. Of course, you can also use Physician Compare to find new services. Type in the specialty you’re looking for, the name of a practice, or the condition for which you need help. Results will show professionals in your specified location and specialty; maps, driving directions, and profiles for them will also appear.

Remember that depression is a mental health condition, and dealing with it doesn’t mean you are flawed. Treatment can help you manage it and lead a happy, healthy life provided you can find the tools you need.

Article Written by Mellisa Howard from Stop Suicide

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