What is a Geriatric Psychiatrist?

Baby boomers often must shoulder some of the responsibilities of health care for their elderly parents. Nowhere is this truer than with mental health. Growing older presents mental health problems that are unique to seniors. For these specific elder-related issues, it may help seniors or their adult children to consult a geriatric psychiatrist.

A geriatric psychiatrist is a medical doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders that may occur in older adults. These concerns include depression, the death of friends and family members, memory problems, dementia, difficulty coping with change, stress, or even poor sleep. Chronic pain, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, or other medical disorders can also cause mental health woes.

“Older adults have special physical, emotional, and social needs,” says the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation. “Understanding this, the geriatric psychiatrist takes a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment, including listening and responding to the concerns of the older adult, helping families, and when necessary, working with other health care professionals to develop effective approaches to treatment. Co-existing medical illnesses, medications, family issues, social concerns, and environmental issues are integrated into a comprehensive program of care.”

A geriatric psychiatrist can see patients at his or her office, the patient’s home or office, an assisted living or long-term care facility, or just about anywhere that’s convenient for everyone. If you or your aging relative is in need of mental health care, ask your personal physician to refer you to a licensed geriatric psychiatrist in your area. You can also contact the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation for a referral. Go to
or call (301) 654-7850, ext. 100.

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Paul Nichols

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  SOURCE: Geriatric Mental Health Foundation