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Seniors: How to Get Help for Depression When You Depend on Medicare

This month in our Addiction Counselor Course we will look at Cultural Competencies. Click here for more information and to attend class on July 12 and/or July 13. Thanks Teresa for an enlightening article on seniors, and often overlooked population when it comes to mental health and substance use.

If you feel depressed, you’re not alone. Depression is common among older adults, and getting better can be complicated by co-occurring substance use disorders, as well as concerns about costs, finding care, and even social taboo. However, you don’t need to be ashamed of seeking the help you need. If you are a senior on Medicare, here are some mental health help facts you should know.

Medicare Can Help with Mental Health Costs

If you are like many seniors, getting the mental health care you need to address depression or substance abuse may be delayed out of concern for costs. What you may not realize, however, is that many mental care services are included in Medicare Part B coverage. Those essential services include getting professional counseling or therapy from psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and even social workers. But to make sure you have this coverage when you need it, you need to review your annual Medicare choices thoroughly. Even seniors who are not suffering from depression should look for Medicare coverage for mental health services, in case they need them in the future.

If you do seek treatment for depression, your provider may prescribe medications to help with your symptoms. These medications can help balance out neurotransmitters for suffering seniors, but they can also be expensive. So, in addition to carrying mental health care coverage, you should also make sure your Medicare plan includes prescription drug coverage. If you still cannot afford your depression medications, you can also look into additional Medicare assistance that can help with those costs so you can get the medications you need.

You Can Find Mental Health Help Online

Figuring out your Medicare mental health coverages is a major step toward getting help. However, if you have never sought out professional mental health care or substance abuse treatment before, you may be confused about where to start. You can use online search tools to locate therapists and counselors in your area who accept Medicare for payment.

Once you have a list of providers, you should do some more research to determine which providers specialize in depression and which treatment providers are trained to address substance use disorders. Finding the right practice and person can take time, but it will be worth the effort if you are confident in the care provided. You can check out each provider’s website to find important details, such as whether a provider has experience dealing with depression in older adults and the type of appointments available. That last part can be key for seniors with depression, as online therapy sessions can provide some major benefits. For one, speaking with a therapist via instant message or video can be less intimidating than doing so in person. It’s also much more convenient for seniors with limited mobility to manage their mental health online.

Lifestyle Choices Can Improve Your Depression Treatment

If you can find a qualified provider and have your treatment covered by Medicare, you will be off to a good start. But managing your mental health can take so much more than therapy and medications. You also need to make lifestyle changes that will complement the professional care and treatment you have worked so hard to obtain.

One of the most natural and effective changes you can make is to get more exercise. Regular workouts trigger chemical reactions in your brain that can reduce feelings of depression and to help combat cravings. If you have issues getting into an exercise routine, you should aim to start with small amounts of physical activity. Schedule a morning walk to start your day or swim a few laps at a local pool. Yoga can also be an effective mood-boosting exercise for seniors, and you can even practice with limited mobility.

Another sweet way you can manage your depression and co-occurring conditions is to adopt a dog. Pet therapy is increasingly being recognized as an effective treatment for depression, as well as other mental health issues. Plus, pet owners tend to get more mood-boosting exercise.

It’s time we treat depression and substance use disorders like any other senior illness. Get the Medicare coverage you need and find a therapist who has the right training to help. Above all, make your mental health a priority, so that you can have a better quality of life.

Teresa Greenhill ( ) is affiliated with Mental Health for Seniors, and provides seniors with information on how they can find out what mental health coverage is offered through Medicare, and how to find mental health resources for seniors. She can be contacted at

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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