(CINCINNATI, Ohio) – As the nation continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we care for the physical and mental health of the most vulnerable, including older Americans. But while most seniors wouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor for physical symptoms, that’s not the case with depression.
A new national survey, the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, finds nearly two-thirds of Americans 65 and older who are concerned they are experiencing depression will not seek treatment, with a third believing they can “snap out of it” on their own.
“Seniors are not proactively asking for help and, even if psychiatric issues are identified, many refuse treatment due to the stigma surrounding mental health care that is especially prevalent among the older generation,” said Dr. Parikshit Deshmukh, CEO and medical director of Balanced Wellbeing LLC in Oxford, Florida. “There is a misconception that depression is a normal part of aging, but it’s not. And seeking help can not only improve lives, it can even save lives.”
It’s a growing problem that has been accelerated amid COVID-19. Seniors are both physically vulnerable, which increases anxiety about the virus, and are also likely to suffer the emotional tolls of these difficult times, such as isolation, loneliness and grief.
That’s why it is more important than ever to deliver effective care to those who need it. Typically, there is often a trial and error process that takes place when identifying an effective medication for each patient. The survey finds that potential side effects and concerns over the effectiveness of medications contribute to seniors’ hesitation to seek treatment.
But a key may lie in a patient’s own unique genetic makeup. The GeneSight test provides information about potential gene-drug interactions to doctors using a patient’s unique DNA. The test is done with a simple cheek swab either in the doctor’s office or at a patient’s home. Within a few days, doctors receive a report with information on which medications may require dose adjustments, may be less likely to work or may have an increased risk of side effects based on a patient’s genetic results.
“There are a variety of effective treatments for depression, but what works well for one patient won’t necessarily be the most effective option for the next,” said Dr. Mark Pollack, chief medical officer of Myriad Neuroscience, makers of the GeneSight test. “We’re working to help doctors deliver care as efficiently as possible by personalizing medication selection for their patients.”
Pollack says the first step to providing treatment to seniors is opening the conversation between doctors and patients on the importance of mental health. For more information on older adults and depression, please visit https://genesight.com/olderadult.