Nearly half of the U.S. veterans are over 65 years of age. Older veterans are at higher risk for mental health (MH) conditions, which are associated with increased mortality and health care costs. Given the deficit of specialty-trained geriatric providers, we are conducting a Quality Improvement initiative to improve MH services for older veterans at Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Our first step is to understand the demographic and diagnostic characteristics of veterans referred for geriatric MH specialty treatment. Materials and Method: We conducted a retrospective chart review of demographics and psychiatric diagnoses in veterans seen for outpatient geriatric MH intake between May 1, 2011 and April 30, 2016. We used chi-square and Spearman's rho tests to examine age, diagnoses, and service-time era variables. Results: 1,059 veterans were evaluated, average age of 73.5 years. Depressive (47%), neurocognitive (42%), and anxiety disorders (22%) were the most common MH conditions. Vietnam veterans showed higher prevalence of depressive (56%), post-traumatic stress (11%), and alcohol use (10%) disorders. World War II veterans showed higher prevalence of neurocognitive disorders (71%). Neurocognitive disorder prevalence was significantly correlated with age. Conclusions: Prevalence and comorbidity of major MH conditions is high in veterans referred for geriatric MH services. Future work will examine challenges faced by non-specialty providers in caring for older veterans, with the goal of developing targeted educational and clinical interventions to better address aging veterans' MH needs.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2019 Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States 2019. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.