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What is Geriatric Psychiatry and How Can It Help My Loved One?

Geriatric psychiatry is psychiatry for older adults, aimed at disorders developed later in life such as mood disorders, dementia, substance abuse, or personality disorders.

Geriatric psychiatrists have specialized, additional training for assisting older adults, and as a result are able to expertly navigate scenarios unique to older adults.

If you’re considering geriatric psychiatry for a senior loved one, read on to learn what these professionals do and how they can help.

What age is the focus of geriatric psychiatry?

As we age, we are at an increasing risk for certain mental health conditions, chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease, and other types of dementia.

That’s why geratric psychiatry is focused on adults aged 65 and older. Professionals receive specialized training tailored to the specific needs of older adults.

The field is still relatively new. The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry was founded in 1978, but it was not until 1991 that the first added qualifications for geriatric psychiatry exams were administered. 

These qualifications include specialized training which gives geriatric psychiatrists the ability to address multiple mental health conditions affecting older adults. Geri-psychiatrists are required to be recertified every 10 years.

With this specialized training, these psychiatrists are able to address multiple mental health conditions affecting older adults.

What does a geriatric psychiatrist do?

Geriatric psychiatrists are focused on preventing, evaluating, diagnosing, and treating mental and emotional disorders in older adults.

The difference between general adult psychiatrists and geriatric professionals is the experience with older adults who have multiple medical issues and take multiple medications.

They also have specialized training in geriatric medicine and neurology, and are able to evaluate and treat psychiatric symptoms and behaviors in Alzheimer’s disease.

With this knowledge and expertise, they are able to educate and provide resources to patients and their families, and today have even moved into a role of helping caregivers avoid burnout and depression.

What are the three most common diagnoses in geriatric psychiatry?

The three most common diagnoses in geriatric psychiatry are delirium, dementia, and depression.

In addition to these three, other common late-life psychiatric syndromes and mental health conditions include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Psychoses
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Personality disorders
  • Sleep disturbances

Let’s explore the three main diagnoses.

Delirium

Delirium is acute confusion, often caused by medications or infections such as urinary tract or upper respiratory.

Medical professionals will often review a patient’s medication list and any changes in dosage, then will rule out any new infections or medical conditions.

Delirium is considered reversible unless proven otherwise. The treatment plan includes identifying a cause for the confusion, removing the cause or addressing it.

Dementia

Geriatric psychiatrists have plenty to offer to those with dementia and their families, at every stage of the disease.

These psychiatrists can diagnose complex types of dementias, such as Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease dementia, in addition to the most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.

These specific diagnoses can help those with dementia and their families better navigate proper treatment for their cognitive decline, with the goal of improving quality of life.

Geriatric psychiatrists are also focused on prevention and intervention, including recommending mental and physical exercise to seniors, and a Mediterranean diet.

Depression

Depression is a common mental health condition among older adults.

Geriatric psychiatrists can help severely depressed seniors, or those who are resistant to treatment, with the use of newer antidepressants, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and even lesser-known treatments such as music therapy, sensory therapy, and art therapy.

The role of geriatric psychiatrists in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Geriatric psychiatrists are at the forefront of the latest treatments, research, and prevention for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

They have an understanding of which methods and medications are outdated or even harmful, including certain types of medications, and are continuing to learn more about treatments that are more disease-modifying than addressing symptoms only.

They are experts in earlier detection and prevention, which opens the door for more treatment options and more benefits from earlier treatments and intervention.

The Kensington Reston: Your partner in specialized memory care

The Kensington Reston offers two specially designed memory care neighborhoods, Connections and Haven, to accurately address and meet the needs of our residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia — at any stage.

We work closely with organizations and nonprofits assisted by experts in geriatric psychiatry, and offer numerous events and resources to residents, caregivers, and families based on what we are constantly learning from our expert sources.

We understand the importance of mental health in older adults and that is why we are proud to offer a geri-psychiatrist on staff who works with our team, residents, and their families to provide expanded health and overall well being.

Talk therapy is among the services provided by geri-psychiatrists in our community. Speaking to a psychiatrist can help older adults identify struggles and improve their overall quality of life by finding new sources of meaning and joy.

In our community, we focus on whole-person wellness, offering life enrichment, nutritious meals, exercise and rehabilitation services, and the latest treatments to help preserve and enhance the quality of life of our residents.

We also are passionate about empowering and educating caregivers in our community, so they are provided with the resources they need to be healthy and thriving.

To learn more about our community and our specialized memory care services, reach out to our team today. 

We Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own, and to be your partners in expert, loving, compassionate care.

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