2018-02-07 / Springfield

Senior Solutions Therapy, in your backyard

By MaryLu A. Olson, LICSW

MaryLu Olson - Courtesy PhotoMaryLu Olson - Courtesy PhotoEveryone could likely benefit from talk therapy, but that doesn’t mean your insurance will agree you need it! How do you know if you or someone you love is suffering from a mental health or substance use disorder and needs treatment?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services one in five Americans have experienced mental health issues. Most commonly in the aging community we see depression.

Luckily in Vermont we have a statewide initiative that provides screening for elders to determine if they have mental health or substance use problems. They can be served at home or in an office by a licensed mental health provider, an ElderCare Clinician. Senior Solutions is the entry agency who will connect you.

The Senior Solutions HelpLine is the first step. If you call the HelpLine an ElderCare Clinician will receive the referral. If the referred person is 60 or older and has difficulty leaving the home an appointment can be made for the clinician to go to the house for an assessment and to get to know the individual’s desires and needs. After the assessment the person and the clinician decide together if treatment is appropriate. It’s that easy! If the referred person has no difficulty leaving the home for appointments then they can be referred to seek treatment on site at one of the HCRS locations covering Windham and Windsor Counties, or to the private therapist of their choice. Yes, Medicare and Medicaid are accepted insurances.

Mental health or substance use challenges can either be present throughout a person’s life or they may be transitory and a recent change from the ordinary. Either way, the person can be referred.

Depression can bring emotions of sadness, emptiness or irritability, and behaviors of isolation, losing interest in life, hopelessness and even thoughts of death or suicide. As an observer you might see someone stay in bed longer, stop eating in a healthy way or just stop caring about how they look. Anxiety can bring worry, feeling overwhelmed, panic, restlessness or fear. Some illnesses or medication reactions can mimic dementia with a presentation of confusion and memory problems. Does someone keep running out of their medications early? Do you see them drinking in a dangerous way? Usually your worry is a sign that someone may need help.

There are multiple barriers to treatment. Often it is the fear of stigma that gets in the way more than anything. One’s own negative beliefs about mental illness or substance use can prevent them from acknowledging a problem. On the flip side, the fear of other’s perceptions is the barrier. This can be even more challenging for those that live in a rural environment like most Vermonters. People may fear that their family or friends would treat them differently, though that is unlikely. Don’t let stigma get in the way of getting help. With the ElderCare program isolation needn’t be a barrier anymore either.

Informed consent is a critical component to consider when pursuing support and assistance. In order to best benefit, a person has to know about, agree to treatment and understand why they are being referred. Someone may be lonely but not depressed, therapy isn’t going to help, but case management or boosting daily social activities might. Sometimes a case manager can be assigned from either agency.

For help or if you have more questions, in Windham and Windsor Counties the best thing to do is to talk to a specialist at Senior Solutions HelpLine at 800-642-5119 and get started!

Senior Solutions is the federally-designated Area Agency on Aging serving Southeastern Vermont since 1973. Senior Solutions provides information and assistance and administers a variety of programs for older adults and people with disabilities. Call 802-885-2655 or visit www.SeniorSolutionsVT.org.

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