Feeling Depressed? Here’s How Medicare Can Help.

Feeling Depressed? Here’s How Medicare Can Help.

Article by Teresa Greenhill

Depression is extremely common in older adults. According to some statistics, approximately two million seniors in the United States live with depression. Fortunately, once you recognize the symptoms, you can ask for help. And if you have Medicare, many of the services you need are covered. Keep reading for insight on mental health, Medicare, and how to find services that can help lift the burden of sorrow off your chest.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a feeling of sadness that sticks with you even when you should feel happy. And it is not always easy to spot. Some people experience depression all the time, while others only present with mood disorders during the winter months. Symptoms of depression range from insomnia and fatigue to feelings of worthlessness and despair. Often, there is no single source of anguish that triggers depression. In seniors, however, it is often the result of a loss of independence or, as Nurse Next Door points out, because of loneliness and isolation.

How Medicare Can Help.

If you are age 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B, you are already entitled to many mental health services. Medicare.gov lists psychiatric evaluation and medication management among these. Medicare Advantage plans often offer even more in the way of mental health. Providers such as Humana have wellness programs built into their insurance structure. Medicare Advantage plan can cover everything from psychiatric visits to follow-up care provided by a clinical social worker. Mental health counseling is often also included.

If you believe that you may need mental health services, but your current Medicare plan does not cover everything you require, you have the option to change your coverage starting on November 1st (through December 15th for the 2020 coverage year). In addition to mental health benefits, many Medicare Advantage providers are adding to their wellness programs with things like nicotine replacement therapy, massage therapy, and caregiver support.

What Services Do I Need, And Where Do I Find Providers?

Depression screening starts with your primary care physician. During your annual wellness visit, they will ask about your mental health and habits. If they believe you are at risk, they may refer you to a specialist for further care. Be aware, however, that not all health practitioners accept Medicare or Medicare Advantage, and it is your responsibility to confirm their acceptance.

Your best option when looking for providers is to check your plan’s website or contact your preferred office or health clinic directly. They will ask you for the information on your Medicare card and will let you know if they accept this as payment.

The type of services you need depends on your situation. Some seniors find that outpatient counseling is sufficient. Others, however, need intense, in-patient services that can only be handled at a live-in facility. Behavioral therapy, antidepressant drugs, and even a new diet and exercise plan may be part of your recovery solution. If you are currently being treated for other health conditions, your doctor and/or pharmacist will also look at your medication list to see if you are taking a prescription known to cause depression. CNBC reports that more than 200 prescription drugs that treat everything from stomach acid to high blood pressure actually contain a depression and suicide side-effect warning.

You do not have to suffer from depression, nor should you when you are in the prime of your life. Your retirement is a time to sit back and enjoy all that you’ve accomplished in your six-plus decades of life. Remember, Medicare is a valuable tool in the fight against senior mental health disorders, but it only works if you use it.


Image via Pixabay

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