What Is Geriatric Psychiatry?

Geriatric psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry concerned with researching, treating and preventing mental illness in the elderly. Keep reading to learn more about geriatric psychiatry. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Importance of Geriatric Psychiatry

This subspecialty within psychiatry incorporates elements of psychology, biology and sociology to understand and minimize mental illness in the geriatric population. Studies show that mental illness is becoming increasingly common in the elderly. Additionally, as the baby boomer generation ages, elderly people will make up a higher proportion of the population, and geriatric psychiatry will become an increasingly important aspect of healthcare.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2014) $181,880 (for Psychiatrists)
Entry-Level Education Doctoral or Professional Degree
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 18% (faster than average)
Work Environment Private offices or clinics, hospitals, group practices or healthcare organizations

Common Job Duties

Geriatric psychiatrists use a broad approach as they work with patients, often involving patients' families and collaborating with other healthcare professionals. Since the elderly commonly suffer from physical ailments like Parkinson's disease and chronic pain, geriatric psychiatrists consider these medical concerns in the context of patients' emotional, mental and social conditions. Geriatric psychiatrists practice in clinics, conduct research and work in academia. They often go to places like nursing homes, assisted living centers and in-patient care units.

Illnesses Studied and Treated

Dementia, the decline of the mind's ability to function properly, is the predominant mental illness in older people. The most common form of dementia treated by geriatric psychiatrists is Alzheimer's disease, most known for its symptoms of gradual, severe memory loss. Other disorders commonly diagnosed and treated by geriatric psychiatrists are generalized anxiety disorder, depression, late-life schizophrenia and substance abuse.

Education and Training Requirements

After completing four years of medical school, candidates undergo a four-year residency in psychiatry, followed by a one-year fellowship in geriatric psychiatry, which makes them eligible for state licensure, as well as board certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Residencies vary, but a typical residency might involve researching Alzheimer's disease, with the candidate studying pharmacology, neuropathology, molecular biology and genetics. Students may wish to consider taking the certification examination for general psychiatry given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Once this certification is completed, students can then take the certification exam for the subspecialty of geriatric psychiatry. Although not required, these forms of certification may be helpful in obtaining employment and attracting potential patients.

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