As we age, our general and mental health needs evolve to require more complex care. Individuals over the age of 60 are more likely to have chronic medical illnesses and be on multiple medications for things such as high blood pressure, diabetes, urinary problems and pain management. As more medications are added to manage multiple illnesses, the risk of side effects and dangerous medication interactions increases. Older individuals also often experience age related memory changes that may concern themselves or their loved ones. For older individuals struggling with mood or anxiety disorders, symptoms tend to present differently than they do in younger patients and are often misdiagnosed or treated with medications that may be safe in younger patients, but are unsafe for older adults. For all of these reasons (and more), aging individuals benefit most from working with providers uniquely trained to meet the complex needs of our aging population.
A geriatric psychiatrist is a psychiatrist who has completed general training in psychiatry plus an additional year of training working only with adults over the age of 60. This training involves learning to recognize and manage psychiatric illnesses (including memory problems or dementia) over the lifespan and gaining the knowledge to advise older patients on the safe use of medications as they age. We also have extensive experience in helping patients to manage the unique psychological challenges aging may present such as struggles with loss of independence, decisions to move to assisted living or skilled nursing facilities and end of life care decisions.
As part of a comprehensive assessment and approach to care, we often involve family members or caregivers in the evaluation and also work collaboratively with patients, their family and caregivers in an ongoing manner. Many family members and caregivers have questions about how to best help their aging loved ones and may, at times, feel overwhelmed with caregiving responsibilities. Working closely with family and caregivers gives us the information we need to make sure all aspects of the our patient's needs are addressed and also allows us the opportunity to minimize the risk of caregiver burden while maximizing the quality of life our patients enjoy.