Mental Health, Seniors and Medication Adherence

Senior citizens that are alone or losing autonomy are at a higher risk of having a mental illness(1). While not all mental illnesses are debilitating, the propensity to suffer from mental illness increases with lack of treatment. This brief article presents some established facts about mental illness, treatment options and how medication management can play a role in increasing adherence for those affected and their caregivers.

The Facts

  • Up to 20% of the population is affected by mental illness.
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. While 37% of those with a serious mental illness did not receive services(2).
  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
  • Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.

It is important to distinguish Mental Health from Mental Illness

Mental health is “a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

Mental illness is characterized by changes that affect a person’s thinking, mood and behaviour, and which cause distress or suffering.

Mental illness is manifested through signs of behavioural change, which people around the person affected can observe or symptoms felt by the person affected. Mental illness is caused by a complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors(3). If you are observing someone with mental illness, you may notice some behavioral changes such as:

  • Isolation
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Stopping medication
  • Disorganisation, meaning major difficulty in organising oneself and functioning normally. The person may experience a lack in judgement or harbour strange ideas
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty taking care of family, professional and social obligations

Mental illnesses can be treated effectively

There are known treatments to cure or relieve symptoms of mental illness. Treatments allow people affected to regain control of their lives and daily activities. The earlier an affected person consults with a doctor, the faster he or she will recover. In many cases, mental illness can be treated effectively through psychotherapy and counselling, medications, or a combination of the above.

Medications

Almost all literature emphasizes that remaining medication adherent, if your doctor prescribes medications for you, is important and it is imperative that you carefully follow the instructions for taking them. Even if you feel better, continue the treatments as prescribed in order to avoid having the symptoms occurring again.

If you experience undesirable side effects due to medication, record them and discuss the matter with your pharmacist or your doctor as soon as possible. If necessary, your medication can be adjusted or other medication may be recommended.

How the RxPense® can help

To help better manage your medication schedule and adherence, a pill dispenser and medication reminder application may be useful. For example, with the RxPense®, medications are securely locked into the device and dispensed only when needed. When it is time to take your medications, you are contacted by alert, SMS, Email or other notification. When you consume the medications, you confirm consumption and answer brief surveys on how you are feeling. Your physician or caregiver may receive alerts when you do not take your medications and may also monitor your progress in the on-line patient portal.

The RxPense securely stores your medications and prevents unauthorized access, under-dosing or overdosing by ensuring only the right person takes the right pills at the right time.

Benefits of medication compliance in the treatment of mental illness

As is the case with medication compliance for other medical conditions, patients that are medication compliant feel better and suffer less.  In the case of mental illness, patients that feel better are more active, more socially engaged (and less isolated) and derive great benefit from increased social interaction. In addition, they are more likely to eat well, sleep well, get more exercise and “fresh air”. Their mental acuity increases and they remember more, they solve problems better and they have better hygiene. Medication compliance can, quite literally, change their lives.

For further information on mental health and illness please visit:

  1. Gouvernement du Québec, 2017, Portail santé mieux-être, http://www.sante.gouv.qc.ca/en/problemes-de-sante/sante-mentale/
  2. NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness, https://www.nami.org/
  3. CMHA – Canadian Mental Health Association, https://cmha.ca/

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