Friday, August 07, 2015

Phone therapy helps older rural underserved adults suffering from anxiety, study says

Phone therapy benefits older adults in rural areas where access to treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is limited, says a study by Wake Forest University researchers published in Jama Psychiatry. The study, which examined 141 rural North Carolina adults 60 and older with a principal or coprincipal diagnosis of GAD, found that after four months there was a significant decline in GAD symptoms, depressive symptoms and worry severity but no significant difference in general anxiety symptoms.

The phone option is important "because seniors often have increased need for treatment as they cope with the effects of disease and the emotional tolls of aging and loss," Lisa Gillespie reports for Kaiser Health News. Eric Lenze, a psychiatrist and professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told her, “Almost all older adults have one chronic medical condition, and most of these have been found to be significantly associated with anxiety disorder."

"Many seniors could face barriers getting that therapy because Medicare has stringent requirements for eligibility for these kinds of phone therapies, according to Lenze," Gillespie writes. In an editorial accompanying the study, "Lenze argued that phone therapy is a good alternative to drugs that are often prescribed for anxiety and depression but can make seniors sleepy and disoriented and lead to injuries."

He told Gillespie, “This demonstrates that [therapy] is just as effective as in-person psychotherapy, and reimbursing for it would be a way to increase the reach of mental health care that in a concrete way would allow someone to get treatment for actual problems, not just medicating and ending up in the emergency room with a hip fracture." (Read more)

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