To order copies of GMHF brochures, visit
the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry's online
The Role of the
WHAT IS 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
disorders include, but are not limited to, dementia,
depression, anxiety, and late-life schizophrenia.
Older adults have special physical, emotional, and social needs. 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.
WHO SEES A GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIST?
Older adults with a variety of concerns see a geriatric
psychiatrist. These concerns include difficulty coping
with change, stress, death, depression, memory problems,
family history of dementia, anxiety, or agitation associated
with dementia or poor sleep. Sometimes emotional problems
occur for the first time in older adults who suffer
with chronic pain, Parkinson's disease, heart disease,
diabetes, stroke, or other medical disorders. The geriatric
psychiatrist offers valuable help to older adults who
are coping with changes in health and function.
Because the geriatric psychiatrist also understands the family's role in caring
for the patient, the doctor educates the family about the nature of the illness
and how they can best cope, and may include referral to other appropriate services.
WHERE DO I FIND A GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIST?
Geriatric psychiatrist see patients in a many settings,
including office, hospital, clinic, long-term care
facility (nursing home), or an independent or assisted
living facility. Your family doctor can refer you to
a geriatric psychiatrist in your area, or contact the
Geriatric Mental Health Foundation for a referral by
visiting www.gmhfonline.org or calling (301) 654-7850,
THE GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIST--PART OF YOUR HEALTH CARE
For adults coping with aging and mental health issues,
the geriatric psychiatrist is a valuable member of
the health care team. Advising primary care doctors
in complex situations involving both medical and mental
illness, educating nurses and other health care professionals
in long-term care or independent living facilities,
directing home health service providers, educating
the community, and advocating for public health care
policy are just a few of the ways in which geriatric
psychiatrists support their patients.
The geriatric psychiatrist is a good ally
when it's not clear whether the patient's problem
is dementia, depression, or the complications
of multiple physical illnesses in addition to
dementia or depression.
--Julie Brandies, M.D.
The doctor helped us understand that Dad didn't really mean to get angry, and
that it was his Alzheimer's disease that makes it hard for him to deal with
frustration. Then the doctor told us how we could help Dad so that he didn't
get upset as often. --Roger Demb, Family Caregiver
My geriatric psychiatrist helped me understand that I was depressed, not senile
or crazy. --Lena Fox, Patient