Older Age Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar experience high and low moods—known as mania and depression—which differ from the typical ups-and-downs most people experience.

The average age of onset is around 25, but it can also occur in the teenage years, and more uncommonly, in childhood. In some cases, however, people develop the condition much later in life. Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally, about 2.6 percent of the US population has a BD diagnosis, and more than 80 percent of cases are classified as severe.

“About one-quarter of all people with bipolar disorder are 60 years of age or older,” wrote Eleesha Lockett on Healthline. “While the symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary with age, the frequency, severity, and overall impact of the disorder are generally different in older adults versus younger people.”

Changes in the frequency and severity of episodes are among the most obvious changes in bipolar disorder at an older age. A study authored by Arnold, Dehning, et al. suggests that people with older age bipolar disorder (OABD) often experience:

  • more frequent episodes
  • more depressive episodes and less time spent in manic or hypomanic states
  • less severe manic symptoms and fewer psychotic features with mania
  • new symptoms, such as irritability and poor cognition
  • lower risk of suicide, although this may be due to survivorship bias
  • resistance to treatment options, such as certain medications

Arnold, Dehning, et al. note that BD patients over sixty are becoming an increasingly significant cohort. “The elderly represent the fastest-growing group of the population. The share of those >60 years of age has duplicated since 1980. In developed countries, the percentage of those >80 years of age will quadruple by 2050. It is fair to assume that the portion of old age patients suffering from bipolar disorder will grow in a similar manner.”

The authors point out that OABD patients constitute a heterogeneous population. Two major groups have been distinguished: “late-onset” patients (LOBD), and “early-onset” patients (EOBD), elder patients with a long-standing clinical history.

“The dividing line between OABD and adult-age BD seems to be fluctuating, but ≥60 years of age appears to be the consensual cut-off… EOBD and LOBD appear to be distinct forms of BD. LOBD patients have been reported to present more often with bipolar II disorder than EOBD patients. EOBD is associated with a highly positive family history, whereas LOBD is frequently associated with neurological diseases, cognitive decline, or other somatic conditions.”   

In her Healthline article, Lockett adds that according to experts, “bipolar disorder may speed up aging and contribute to cognitive decline. Older studies have found a link between bipolar disorder and cognitive decline, as well as an increased risk of dementia with each bipolar disorder episode.”

So, if you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it’s important to seek treatment for the condition, as it can become progressively worse if left untreated. Since it is a complex condition, effective treatment of bipolar disorder requires a holistic approach. 

The late founder of Colorado Recovery, Richard Warner believed that recovery from mental illness should involve much more than getting rid of symptoms and staying out of the hospital. Dr. Warner’s system at Colorado Recovery includes a residential treatment program, a transitional program, an intensive outpatient program, and a “clubhouse” community mental health service model. The Warner model is based on a warmer and more human familial setting, comprehensive levels of care that result in a path of self-reliance, and community engagement for connection and a feeling of contribution.

Our treatment facility provides the services needed to address bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other serious mental illnesses which are specific to each individual. Call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

It All Starts With a Welcoming Admissions Team

A warm familial setting, comprehensive levels of care leading to a path of self-reliance, expert staff to improve diagnoses and treatment plans, and community engagement for clients—these are the hallmarks of the Warner model utilized at Colorado Recovery.

And that warm familial setting starts right at the admissions process. “We carry that welcoming family feel, including during the initial call,” says admissions coordinator Julie Owen, MA. The team at Colorado Recovery treats every client as if they were their next of kin, with respect, compassion, and optimism.

“One of our strengths is listening skills,” says Owen. “Our first question is usually ‘What made you reach out to us today?’ What’s been going on with your friend, family member, or yourself? You will have somebody on the phone who says ‘I hear you, that sounds like it’s been challenging.’ and ‘let me tell you how I can help you.’” 

The flexible treatment model at Colorado Recovery utilizes a range of programs specializing in working with people for whom mental illness is affecting their lives in a negative way. 

“All our programs have the end goal of our clients becoming stable, becoming independent, developing skills that help them work with the issues they are facing, so they can live independent and successful lives,” explains Owen. “We have had many clients see that come to fruition. Many have jobs and their own apartments. Many come back to visit and touch base and it’s always great to see them.”

During the admissions process, clients learn about our recovery model and our dynamic levels of care. The admissions team can competently explain the different options, so clients get the help that’s right for them. The residential level, called Balsam House, where the focus is on stabilization and looking at medication strategy, is the highest level of care. Balsam House is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by skilled professional staff who provide a full range of psychiatric services and are able to respond promptly to the needs of each resident. 

After stabilization clients may step down to the middle level of care called Transitional Living—four townhomes connected via their backyards. The focus at this level is on connection. Colorado Recovery’s treatment environment is open-door, non-institutional, non-coercive, pleasant, and inviting because we recognize our clients share with everybody a need for a sense of community, meaning in life, and self-respect. Clients can also be directly admitted to Transitional Living if their diagnosis allows it.  

“Connecting with others experiencing something similar is very powerful and plays a big role in long-term recovery success,” says Owen. “In transitional living, we focus a lot on life skills: learning to do the laundry, learning to do a grocery list, go shopping, and cook meals; learning to pay the bills on time, going to appointments without being prompted. All those skills become so very important when someone is living independently.”

Once somebody is ready to step down from transitional, they’re ready to get by on their own, maybe live in their own home, they most likely have a job at this point. They can also step down to our outpatient level of care. We have a number of outpatient programs, the one most clients step down to is the intensive outpatient program (IOP) which meets three days a week. This level of care is also open for direct admission to those who may be ready to begin their recovery at that level, or for those stepping down from another program. 

This highly flexible umbrella of programs is able to address the needs of clients on an individual basis and the level of care can easily be adjusted according to their progress. “We are quite flexible depending on where the person is,” says Peggy Caspari, MA, LPC, RN, Colorado Recovery’s executive director. “This flexibility is really empowering clients which is our core philosophy. We want to do what’s in their best interest and meet them where they are in their recovery.”  

The mission of Colorado Recovery is to help adults with serious mental health issues such as  psychotic disorders or severe depression stabilize their condition, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life. Healing, inclusion, and client empowerment are at the core of our treatment philosophy and it all starts with your first chat with the admissions team.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.


Dynamic Levels of Care to Empower Clients

Last year, Colorado Recovery expanded its services and started admitting directly into its intensive outpatient program (IOP) clients who may be ready to begin their recovery at the IOP level of care or those in the process of stepping down from another program. 

The same applies to our Transitional Living Program which is offered to clients progressing from residential care or intensive outpatient treatment but also admits directly clients who are ready to begin this phase of their recovery. Every client is different and should be evaluated on an individual basis.

“We are quite flexible depending on where the person is,” says Peggy Caspari, MA, LPC, RN, Colorado Recovery’s executive director. “This flexibility is really empowering clients which is our core philosophy. We want to do what’s in their best interest and meet them where they are in their recovery.”  

Clients may start at the IOP level of care because they think it’s the best fit for them. “In that case, they’re coming in 3–4 days a week,” explains Caspari. “They’re developing a relationship with a psychiatrist and different therapists. That includes therapists who work at Balsam House, our residential facility.” 

Sometimes, the treatment team realizes that an IOP client could benefit from a higher level of care—a little more structure and 24/7 services. Occasionally, it’s the clients themselves who come to that conclusion while in group therapy with peers who are in residential treatment.  

“People at various levels of care meet in therapy at Colorado Recovery. They form relationships and start to trust each other. IOP clients become friends with Balsam House clients,” says Caspari. “And sometimes, they start wondering if they can benefit from what’s being offered there. Sometimes the recommendation to switch to a different level of care comes from clinicians and sometimes it comes from a client who might say ‘I would like to move up, I’m interested in your Balsam House services.’ There is a distinct comfort level when you already know people who are living there and therapists who are working there—when you know the psychiatrist there and you know you can go there and still come to the outpatient groups while living at Balsam House.” 

The “wrap-around” services at Colorado Recovery are highly flexible. We employ two full-time case managers for inpatient residential and intensive outpatient treatment for clients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The case managers help clients access needed services, housing, and financial benefits. They are generally available to help clients as needs and services present themselves in a dynamic manner. 

“We believe in empowerment and let you decide,” says Caspari. “IOP or Balsam House, what do you want? If you want the IOP—great, let’s see how it goes. If you want Balsam House because you think you need more—no problem, we can try that.” 

The involvement of clients in the decision-making process is really empowering for them and part of our treatment approach focused on setting a course for a life of engagement, purpose, and connection. Community integration and social engagement continue to be at the heart of the treatment model pioneered by Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner.

“We try to help clients find true meaning and purpose in their lives and a connection with the community, so we are really looking for that community piece—for example, if you look at our Treehouse model,” explains Caspari. “Our employment support is another important element. And we facilitate social events like museum visits or trips to the farmers’ market in town. All of these activities reinforce their autonomy and that all-important connection to the community to help clients gain meaning and purpose in their lives.” 

The treatment program at Colorado Recovery provides the services needed to address schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses which are specific to each individual. Call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.