What Is A Geriatric Psychiatrist And What Do They Do?

By: Samantha Dewitt

Updated February 09, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

A geriatric person is an older adult or someone who would be considered a senior. These individuals may age-related mental health disorders, such as dementia. They could also have conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Older people can experience the same mental health disorders or concerns that younger people experience. A geriatric psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats seniors for mental health issues.

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What is Geriatric Psychiatry?

When it comes to treating geriatric patients, there are some key differences that a psychiatrist should be considering from treating younger people. Geriatric patients may or may not be able to take an active role in their mental health treatment. They may require differing amounts of support or assistance from other people in their life, which might include members of their family or medical staff. They might need other individuals involved in the treatment process. These people help them attend sessions and carry out any recommendations that are made or to monitor their progress.

Older individuals could need a particular form of treatment that addresses their mental health, physical, emotional, and social needs. By addressing all of these things together, a geriatric psychiatrist can provide the best support. They will be able to prepare better the rest of the family to help the geriatric patient to manage complex emotional situations and coordinate therapy.

Reasons to See a Geriatric Psychiatrist

There are some different reasons to see a geriatric psychiatrist. Some of these are the result of a physical problem, such as a stroke, chronic pain, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, or other medical conditions. Seeing a provider could be related to emotional, developmental, or cognitive problems. The patient may struggle with expressing emotions. They may experience a setback as a result of a different mental health disorder which causes developmental problems, or they may suffer from memory loss or memory impairment. Each of these could be a reason that a patient would seek mental health support.

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Patients may be experiencing family problems or issues with peers. A medical condition could cause it, or it could be a natural occurrence within the family (people of all ages have familial and peer social problems). No matter what reason the geriatric patient has for seeking mental health treatment, they deserve to get help. Here is why geriatric psychiatry is considered a separate specialty.

Getting Specialized Training

Psychiatrists who work with geriatric patients are required to complete a 4-year program and residency in psychiatry. They complete training for an additional year through a fellowship program to learn geriatric psychiatry. In this way, the therapist will be better prepared to provide the specialized and individualized care that a geriatric patient needs. Any geriatric patient must get attention directed toward them rather than the generalized care that would be provided to younger patients or those in a different demographic.

Why You Need Geriatric Psychiatry

If you or a loved one believe you need to see a geriatric psychiatrist, there are some reasons to consider it. While some of the specific conditions and situations that could lead to a decision to pursue treatment have been discussed above, it's also essential to look at particular behavior that could warrant treatment. If you're feeling any emotion intensely or without provocation, it could be a sign that seeing a psychiatrist would be a good idea. An individual who experiences extreme bouts of happiness, extreme sadness, extreme anger, or emotions that seem to fluctuate without cause may want to consider treatment.

There will be times in your life that you feel any emotions, and this is perfectly normal. However, when the feelings don't seem tied to events or if they seem to be extreme, it could be a sign that something else is going on. Some individuals aren't even sure what they're feeling or experiencing but only know that they don't feel the same way that they used to. If this is happening to you, it also might be a sign that you could benefit from therapy and other forms of professional help.

If you have a loved one that doesn't seem to be acting like themselves, you may want to encourage them to seek out some therapy. Another essential reason to get treatment is if you've suffered a loss. As we get older, our peers pass away. If the person lives in a senior facility or nursing home, they may have received a difficult medical diagnosis. All these things can make it difficult for an individual to continue with their life. It's freeing to discuss the situation with a provider who cares.

There are dangerous situations that occur that require an individual to see a psychiatrist, such as suicidal ideation or attempts. Other times the patient may feel lost or lonely and need someone to talk with, and that's important. There are plenty of reasons for a patient to speak with a psychiatrist if they experience any of these feelings, and they must do so if they feel the need. No one should have to feel like they are alone.

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What's Next?

When a geriatric patient enters psychiatric treatment, the process is quite similar to what would happen with any other patient. In these sessions, the psychiatrist works with the patient to understand what they are experiencing. They help the patient to develop a treatment plan, which could include psychotropic medications.

The most important thing is the patient has a place to express themselves and share their feelings. A geriatric patient especially may not have anyone to share these things with or may not want to share them with a loved one, especially in cases where a mental health issue is present. Talking with a geriatric psychiatrist, who specializes in these issues, can help them to understand themselves better and to work out what it is that they want or need in their lives.

There are plenty of different reasons to see a psychiatrist. A patient could experience great benefits because they're spending time talking to someone and getting to know themselves a little bit better. The most important thing is that patients feel like they have someone they can open up to because this is going to make a huge difference in everything else they do.

Finding A Geriatric Psychiatrist

If you think that it's a good time to look for a mental health professional, don't wait. For geriatric patients, it can be challenging to find a provider who specializes in this field. That's where you might want to try online therapy. Online programs make it easier for someone who needs a specialized type of treatment to find someone that's qualified and that can help them in the way they need. Your online therapist can help you find a psychiatrist who works with seniors.

BetterHelp is a place where you can get the professional help that you're looking for, no matter what your age, and you won't have to worry about visiting an outside location. That's because all of the therapy takes place online. Patients can find a therapist that's located throughout the world, which makes it easier to find someone skilled in the specific area that they need and someone that they feel comfortable with as well. On top of that, they're able to interact with that therapist at just about any time they might want. With this service, you can also find more information about different mental health disorders and situations.


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