Senior Depression - How to get help when you need it.

Guest Blog Post WRITTEN BY Sharon Wagner of

Senior Depression: How to Get Help When You Need It

Depression is a debilitating disorder for people of all ages. However, the elderly often suffer the most because the symptoms of depression are easily mistaken for society’s expectations of aging. If you are a senior concerned about your mental health, you should know that help is available. And if you have Medicare, you may be entitled to services that can put you back on track.

Prevalence of depression

It is estimated that up to 20 percent of elderly individuals live with depressive symptoms every day. This rate nearly doubles among elderly individuals in long-term care. Unfortunately, in addition with fatigue, weight gain, and cognitive decline, untreated depression can culminate in suicide. Elderly suicide is a phenomenon that Today’s Geriatric Medicine contributor Barbara Worthington describes as “a needless tragedy,” with a disproportionate amount of seniors choosing to end their own lives when compared to their share of the population.

Depression does not look the same on all seniors. Some individuals may be more cranky or irritable than normal, while others experience significant mood swings and memory issues. If you find yourself feeling emotionally numb, pulling away from your loved ones, or noticing a decline in your physical health, it may be time to talk to your doctor about your mental well-being. They can put you in touch with a licensed therapist who can get you back on track and give you the tools to reclaim the most important parts of your life.

Types of depression treatment

Medicare Part B provides fairly extensive coverage for mental health services. This may include services rendered by asocial worker, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, nurse practitioner,physician, or physician’s assistant. Treatment for behavioral and emotional disorders may also be covered with a 20 percent copay. Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is also covered with a copay and deductible. A geriatric counselor may also be utilized for support regarding mental health concerns experienced by the elderly. This is an individual who can work with you and your family to help you deal with stressors commonly associated with aging, such as retirement transition and grief.

Find a provider

Your mental health benefits depend largely upon the type of Medicare you have. While original Medicare provides coverage,it may be limited, especially if you wind up needing inpatient behavioral treatment on the road. Make a point to review your Medicare coverage each year,and look for a supplement plan that offers more extensive coverage if you suspect depression or if you have a family history of mental health disorders.

It is important to note that not all providers accept Medicare. You can find a physician at or talk to your general practitioner, who may be able to provide you with a list of participating therapists and clinicians.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your insurance agent can answer questions. More information about basic Medicare coverage and resources that can help clarify this often-confusing insurance system is available through the AARP.

Preventing further issues

Preventing depression isn’t always easy, and it requires you to be proactive. The Senior List recommends planning regular social events and joining exercise classes geared specifically toward seniors. Talk to your loved ones about how you are feeling, and don’t be afraid to ask them to come visit. You may be surprised at just how willing your friends and family are to spend some quality time together.Depression is a disease that hurts not only the sufferer but also their family. If you believe that you are depressed, don’t wait to seek help. There are many services available that can put you back on track without costing you your life savings. If you are having suicidal thoughts and need immediate assistance, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800.273.8255.

Sharon is the creator of, which provides tips for staying active as you age. You can contact her through the website