September 1, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Understanding The Importance Of Geriatric Psychology
As mentioned in part 1, there are several unique problems that might affect individuals as they approach old age. Many of these stem from different physical limitations that keep getting worse as they get older.
As physical limitations get more severe, they can often result in an older individual becoming increasing less mobile and more dependent on other people, sometimes to do the simplest task. This growing lack of independence can have a devastating effect on the psyche of some people, especially those who have been particularly active and independent in their younger days and often results in disorders such as depression. Chronic and terminal illnesses as well as the persistent pain brought on by conditions such as arthritis can also have a negative impact on an elderly person’s mental state.
Other physical problems that are associated with old age can have a direct impact on an older person’s cognitive functions, including their behaviour, thoughts and memories. Neuro-degeneration, for example, is one of the most common factors that cause conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Although in most cases these diseases are untreatable and unpreventable, sometimes doctors can put measures in place to treat the symptoms and slow the progression of such diseases.
Loss of memory is another area that a professional in this field may focus on as well. With advancing age, the ability to retain and recall memories starts to diminish. This problem is often exacerbated by the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Inability to remember things or recall memories can be frustrating, whether they are the result of the normal aging process or a more serious degenerative disease.
Added to all of the above, many elderly adults also find that their social circles have begun to dwindle slowly but steadily. It could be because they or their close friends are unable to leave their homes or travel short distances to visit with one another. Also, they may even watch as their friends start passing away. These situations inexorably lead to the onset of loneliness, grief and depression.
A qualified and trained geropsychologist can help in each of the above cases. Professionals qualified in the field of geriatric psychology are trained to offer counselling and support to elderly adults who may be experiencing feelings of helplessness, anxiety, depression, grief and frustration. This type of focused counselling can help elderly individuals feel less anxious and when coupled with family therapy it can help them and their families become more accepting and adjusting to the many changes that keep occurring throughout old age.
In short, geriatric psychology can help reduce the anxiety and frustrations that are common in old age and help elderly individuals live out the rest of their days in relative peace and comfort, with a calm mind.