As you grow older, you may have new mental health needs. Loss of a spouse or loved one, declining income and deteriorating physical health often bring about severe depression or impair your ability to cope with everyday life.

Major disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, strokes and other heart disorders, and Parkinson’s Disease can have debilitating effects on older people. Medications prescribed for some chronic conditions may impair mental functioning.

Often seniors and their families may be reluctant to seek mental health treatment, or they may be at a loss to know where and how services are provided. Private and publicly funded mental health services for seniors range all the way from peer counseling and support groups to hospitalization. In addition, religious organizations and other community agencies often sponsor programs for seniors.

Most counties in California provide mental health services for indigent seniors with serious mental disorders. To find out what services are available, call the offices of your county’s Department of Mental Health. Local offices of the Area Agency on Aging should be able to give you information on the types of non-public services that are available in your community. The Mental Health Association in your area should also be able to assist you in finding the services that are appropriate for your needs.

Finding Help for an Elder

You may be in a position to make choices in your own life and in the lives of your children, but what happens when you believe another adult needs help? The person may be your spouse, a parent, another relative or a friend. He or she may want help, but not know how to go about getting it. In that case, this guide will assist you in finding resources to recommend.

If, however, you are seeking relief for an adult who does not believe he or she needs assistance, the situation is more complex. First, you must understand that no matter how concerned you may be, you are not totally responsible for another adult who does not want to receive help.

While trying to deal with and understand another person who demonstrates symptoms of a mental illness, you may wish to contact your local Mental Health Association or chapter of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

These organizations offer practical information and emotional support.

In addition, the Alliance can provide a variety of books and pamphlets which share information and ideas on how to assist a mentally ill relative and survive the experience yourself.