6 things you need to know about Geriatric Psychiatry.

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6 things you need to know about Geriatric Psychiatry.

Psychiatry is a field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental health conditions from the age of birth upto old age. These include disturbances in areas such as mood, behavior, cognition, and perceptions.

It is important to note that psychiatry caters to all populations irrespective of gender, race, caste, nationality, and age. One of the notable fields of psychiatry is Gerentology or Geriatric Psychiatry.

Geriatric psychiatry is a branch of medicine that specializes in the biological and psychological aspects of normal aging. It studies the effect of short term and chronic physical illness on psychosocial aspects in the geriatric population. Their major emphasis is on the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental and emotional disorders in the elderly. This branch aids in the improvement of psychiatric care for healthy and ill elderly patients.

This population usually is a marginalized section constituting of 8.6% of the population. These individuals need care and attention and quite a lot of issues can develop. This article aims to understand 6 things you need to know about geriatric psychiatry.

  1. Knowing the difference between normal aging and mental health concerns : As age progresses there tend to be some capacities that slow down or deteriorate. Some changes in sleep, vision, psychomotor speed, and ability to multitask are considered to be normal. However, issues that lead to disturbance in functioning and distress in an old person can indicate mental health concerns. Additionally, personality traits and characteristics tend to be stable over a period of time. It is better to get timely checkups at intervals.
  2. Depression: It is not uncommon that the elderly population suffers from depression. There could be many reasons for the same- loss of a spouse, loneliness, empty nest syndrome, loss of mobility, and difficulty adjusting to retired life . The famous psychologist Erik Erikson, described old age in the stage of Integrity vs Despair. Individuals who find fulfillment and acceptance towards their lived life tend to experience integrity. However, many individuals tend to look back with despair or feel despaired with their current circumstances. This is a rampant mental health concern and requires aid from a clinical psychologist.
  3. Dementia: One of the 3 D's along with Depression and Delirium is Dementia. Usually seen in people older than 65 years old. Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease which is characterized by problems in intellectual functioning. Most significant feature is loss of memory. The neurons or brain cells tend to start getting degenerate and thus people may forget names, places, things and other important information. Problems such as getting lost in public places, inability to remember words, rage, restlessness, sleep disturbances and sometimes delusions are quite common.
  4. Delirium: The other D of Geriatric psychiatry is Delirium. It is usually a temporary mental state in which one is confused, disoriented and not able to think or remember clearly. Mostly it lasts for over a few hours or a few days. Symptoms include changes in the level of alertness, confusion, talking in a way that doesn't make sense, disturbances in sleep, emotional changes, hallucinations and delusions, trouble concentrating and memory problems. This is a very common problem that can occur in the geriatric population. This requires neurological and psychiatric treatment. Often, occupational therapy may be required as well.
  5. Therapy/Treatment for Geriatric Population : We cannot neglect this population from therapeutic interventions. Some common or standard psychotherapeutic interventions are insight oriented psychotherapy, supportive psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, group therapy and family therapy. Common age-related issues in therapy involve the need to adapt to recurrent and diverse losses (e.g., the deaths of friends and loved ones), the need to assume new roles (e.g., the adjustment to retirement and the disengagement from previously defined roles), and the need to accept mortality. Psychotherapy helps older persons to deal with these issues and the emotional problems surrounding them and to understand their behavior and the effects of their behavior on others. In addition to improving interpersonal relationships, psychotherapy increases self-esteem and self-confidence, decreases feelings of helplessness and anger, and improves the quality of life. Psychotherapy helps relieve tensions of biological and cultural origins and helps older persons work and play within the limits of their functional status and as determined by their past training, activities, and self-concept in society. In patients with impaired cognition, psychotherapy can produce remarkable gains in both physical and mental symptoms.
  1. Other issues: Apart from the above mentioned issues there are a host of other concerns that we can be aware of that people in the older age group may experience with respect to psychiatry. These include clinical problems such as anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, psychosis, delusional disorder, OCD and so on.

There is an immense need for this population to seek psychiatric and psychotherapeutic services. At Mpower, the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are trained and qualified to cater to all age groups including the geriatric population.

Also read,

What are the 3 most common diagnoses in geriatric psychiatry? Find a geropsychiatric / a mental health therapist for elderly in Mumbai.

What is geriatric psychiatry? How is it performed?

image credits: Freepik

Nikita Sulay
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