Counseling For Older Adults: Is It Too Late to Start Therapy?

Taking care of yourself doesn’t stop when you reach a certain age. Your mind, body, and spirit can always benefit from a little self-care. As you age, you’ll experience a lot of changes that you didn’t encounter when you were younger. The loss of close friends, widowhood, retirement, loneliness, memory loss, and a lot of free time on your hands just to name a few. 

All these life changing events and emotions can become overwhelming. That’s where counseling for older adults comes in to play. While it might seem like a “young people” way of coping with life changes, that’s not true. Therapy or counseling benefits anyone who’s in need of a listening ear, compassion, a change in perspective, a change in behavior, self-awareness, or acceptance. Those needs don’t go away when you hit 50 or 60 years of age. The key is that you need to be willing to change. 

Here are a few research studies that show why counseling for older adults is so crucial for the current and upcoming generation of seniors.

Older Adults Struggle with Mental Health And Depression

Research from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies found that one in five Americans age 65 and up lives with a substance abuse or mental health problem. That’s a total of 5.5 million to 8 million individuals. Dementia, depression, and psychiatric symptoms are the most common problems these adults struggle with. Everything from losing a spouse to medicine interactions contributes to the dilemma. Therapy or counseling for older adults is a great non-pharmaceutical way to help seniors combat depression. Plus, Medicaid and Medicare cover most mental health services. 

Delirium Is More Common In Those Age 65+

Delirium is a change in thought process or confusion that comes on suddenly. Older adults experience delirium more than any other generation. It’s typically caused by an infection, dehydration, or a medicine interaction. Many instances of delirium originate in the hospital during postoperative care or in intensive care. Incident rates can reach 15% to 87% for patients 65 and older. Dementia patients are at an even higher risk. Two-thirds of delirium cases are found in individuals age 65 and up who have dementia. 

Even just an acute case of delirium can permanently affect your memory, ability to focus, and your processing speed. A change in cognition can cause a lot stress and even depression. You need to learn how to adjust to the newness of it all. Counseling or therapy for seniors can help with processing these changes and coping with cognitive decline. 

Suicide Rates For Older Adults Are On the Rise

While suicide is still most common amongst younger generations, it’s still a major concern for older adults. Research from the CDC found that from 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate for those aged 35 to 64 increased by 28.4%. For older adults aged 50 to 64, the rates increased even more. Rates for women age 60 to 64 jumped up 59.7%. 

Talk therapy and group counseling is there for seniors struggling with thoughts of suicide, loneliness, isolation, and depression. A psychiatrist can help you work through these thoughts and recommend pharmaceutical options if appropriate. Mood swings and depression are common medication side effects, so a therapist can help you determine if that’s the case too. 

What Types of Counseling For Older Adults Are There?

Therapy for older adults is primarily offered in two forms—individual or group counseling sessions. Individual counseling offers more privacy, but group therapy for seniors offers a unique opportunity to share your thoughts with others and learn from their experiences too. Plus, it can help you combat social isolation. Regardless of which you think you’d prefer, it’s best to start with a one-on-one session. Your therapist can help you decide what’s best for your situation. Depending on what you’re going through, both types might be beneficial. 

Find Counseling for Older Adults in Los Angeles

You can easily find a counselor in Los Angeles. Asking your primary care physician for a referral is the easiest way to get started. Psychology Today provides a free therapist search tool too. You could also reach out to the City of Los Angeles Department of Aging or speak with someone at one of the city’s many Multipurpose Senior Centers to inquire about available resources. 

Helpful Links to Check Out:

It's Not Too Late (Or Too Soon) To Get Therapy - Forbes
Can the Nation Support Boomers’ Mental Health Needs? - Next Avenue