More seniors with mental health issues ending up in the ER

By Stephanie Bouchard, Associate Editor, Healthcare Finance News

HONOLULU – A study presented last month at the annual American Psychiatric Association conference points to a pending crisis in geriatric psychiatry and potential healthcare cost increases as older adults end up in emergency rooms for mental health-related issues.

“Increased Elderly Utilization of Psychiatric Emergency Services in Honolulu: A Reflection of the Mental Health Crisis Facing Our Nation’s Aging Population” looked at the records of 17,004 patients who used the emergency room and were identified as using psychiatric emergency services at the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu between 2007 and 2010.

The study found that the number of geriatric patients (age 65 and older) with mental health issues – which include dementia, depression and Alzheimer’s disease – increased nearly 21 percent from 2007 to 2010. That increase seen is one example of a nationwide geriatric mental health crisis.

The crisis is due to a confluence of problems, said Brett Lu, MD, PhD, one of the authors of the study. It’s mainly due to a shortage of mental health resources and the large number of Baby Boomers becoming seniors.

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