What is Geriatric Psychiatry?

Introduction

Geriatric psychiatry, also known as geropsychiatry, psychogeriatrics or psychiatry of old age, is a subspecialty of psychiatry dealing with the study, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders in humans with old age.

As the population ages, particularly in developing countries, this field is becoming more needed. The diagnosis, treatment and management of dementia and depression are two areas of this field. Geriatric psychiatry is an official subspecialty in psychiatry with a defined curriculum of study and core competencies.

International

The International Psychogeriatric Association is an international community of scientists and healthcare geriatric professionals working for mental health in aging. International Psychogeriatrics is the official journal of the International Psychogeriatric Association.

United Kingdom

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is responsible for training and certifying psychiatrists in the United Kingdom. Within the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry is responsible for training in Old Age Psychiatry. Doctors who have membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists can undertake a three or four year training programme to become a specialist in Old Age Psychiatry. There is currently a shortage of old age psychiatrists in the United Kingdom.

United States

The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) is the national organisation representing health care providers specialising in late life mental disorders. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry is the official journal of the AAGP. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry both issue a board certification in geriatric psychiatry.

After a 4-year residency in psychiatry, a psychiatrist can complete a one-year fellowship in geriatric psychiatry. Many fellowships in geriatric psychiatry exist.

Name

The geropsychiatric unit, the term for a hospital-based geriatric psychiatry programme, was introduced in 1984 by Norman White MD, when he opened New England’s first specialised programme at a community hospital in Rochester, New Hampshire. White is a pioneer in geriatric psychiatry, being among the first psychiatrists nationally to achieve board certification in the field. The prefix psycho- had been proposed for the geriatric programme, but White, knowing New Englanders’ aversion to anything psycho- lobbied successfully for the name geropsychiatric rather than psychogeriatrics.

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