Before diving into the subject of geriatric psychiatry, we need to have an insight into general psychiatry as geriatric psychiatry is an emerging subspecialty of the latter field, having its roots entwined with psychiatry.
Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. A person specializing in this field is referred to as a psychiatrist. People seek help from a psychiatrist for man reasons. The problems can be sudden such as panic attacks associated with PTSD, suicidal thoughts, or long-term depression, sadness( Charlton 1991).
Read on to learn more about Geriatric Psychiatry.
Geriatric psychiatry is a field that deals with the biological and psychological aspects of aging, the effects afflicted on old age patients by the physical illness, and the underlying pathology of the primary psychiatric disturbances in advancing age( Blazer and Schultz 2020).
This new and emerging field is subtly different from general psychiatry. It focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment of psychiatric illnesses in the population above 60.
NEED FOR GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRY
The need for this field arose because in recent years, the population of old age people has exceeded, and special care facilities opened for them for their care and treatment. It was noticed that the pathological diseases that occurred in old age, such as diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer led to psychiatric disturbances in people as these deadly diseases span over the course of years. The person has to combat them daily. Researchers observed that this daily battle of “Man vs. Microbe” left a toll on the individual, which needed to be addressed on a clinical level.
To cater to the needs of a mass population suffering from psychiatric issues due to long term pathological diseases, the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) came into being in 1978. However, it wasn’t till 1991 that its regular examination and mandatory recertification schedule was designed ( Grossberg 2010).
TREATMENT OFFERED IN GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRY
Old age people are often suffering from a physical as well as a mental illness. So a geriatric psychiatrist treats the patient as a “whole” person. He considers the diseases associated with declining age, rules them out, and studies analyze and treat the underlying mental illness afflicted by them. For this, the physician takes a complete history of the patient, accepts counsel from the doctors the individual is seeking help from previously for other ailments and draws as a comprehensive plan to cater to his day-to-day needs.
The patient may be suffering from depression due to a terminal illness or demise of a spouse, stress due to financial crisis after retirement, emotional disturbance due to isolation in old age centers. It falls under the supervision of a geriatric psychiatrist to resolve the patient’s issues with the help of behavior plans, psychotherapy, support groups, medication, alternative or complementary treatments, or hospitalization in extreme conditions( “Geriatric Psychiatrist” 2016).
A geriatric psychiatrist’s role is not limited to the underlying issues that arose due to a long-term pathological condition. However, he specializes in the mental disorders of the elderly, which are significantly associated with advanced age, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, parkinsonism (AAGP 2018)..
BENEFITS OF GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRY
This specialized field of medicine caters to the needs of the population above 60 years of age. We have observed that comorbidities, along with mental illnesses, are seen in these patients who need attention at a multidimensional level. Often, all of the aspects associated with the patient are not covered by a single person. But the geriatric psychiatrist, along with general counseling, looks into the matter of pathological illness and consulting the health care providers who are treating this patient previously to better understand the mental status of the patient.
As these physicians have dedicated their lives to the service of the elderly, they better understand the problems that arise in the declining age, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Seeking mental help can be difficult and expensive. However, with the rise of this field, it is becoming more accessible to patients. Special organizations such as BetterHelp have great information to help understand more about geriatric psychiatrists, making professional help one step closer to find.
With the advancement in clinical medicine, a dire need arose for the special care of the elderly. This field was developed, which encompasses the mental disorders of the elderly and the underlying mental effects of the long-term pathological diseases. The specialists of this branch of medicine have the skill set to deal with people of advancing age, catering to a broad spectrum of needs, making them different from general psychiatry practitioners.