Sadly, it has long been the case that people with severe mental illness — especially schizophrenia and similar conditions — tend to die at much younger ages than those who are not suffering from mental illness. But now that’s starting to change.
The University of Iowa’s Center on Aging reports that more and more people who suffer from severe mental illness are living into old age. That’s largely due to advances in treatment therapy, improved social programs, earlier diagnoses, and an improved focus on tending to these patients’ underlying ailments.
That’s certainly good news. Society’s inability to meet the mentally ill’s needs has been an ongoing source of sadness and tragedy. A documented improvement in their average lifespan, not to mention their quality of life, is very welcome news indeed.
Society will now need to plan to address the needs of a growing elderly population with increased mental illness, though — needs that might differ significantly from those of their younger years.
“It’s a very difficult social problem, and we’ll have to start thinking carefully about how best to meet that need,” Dr. Susan Schultz recently told The Des Moines Register. Dr. Schultz is a geriatric psychiatrist and the director of UoI’s Center on Aging. “It’s a big question that will become more important over time.”
Family members will need to do some thinking and planning too, as will the mental health patients themselves. Long-term care costs are already expensive as it is. Coupled with additional psychological and/or psychiatric care, those costs could become overwhelming. Proactive planning can help.
If you or a loved one suffers from mental illness, now might be a good time to begin thinking about your options for paying for long-term care. Figuring out those solutions isn’t always easy, but they are absolutely attainable — and I’m here to help. I invite you to give my office a call so we can talk more about your options.