Psychiatric Care for the Elderly

Psychotherapy

According to a study cited by the National Institute of Mental Health, interpersonal psychotherapy can effectively treat symptoms of depression in elderly adults. Interpersonal psychotherapy is a type of treatment in which a person suffering the symptoms of a mental illness talks with a mental health professional about his interpersonal relationships. Because elderly people can have weaker social ties due to the loss of a partner or spouse, or the loss of friends, psychotherapists should focus on encouraging the person to make new connections with friends and loved ones. The development of social skills also can be effective in treating the loneliness associated with aging, as some elderly people feel they need additional help in establishing connections with others.

Medication

For those suffering from severe mental illness, medication is also an option for treatment. The Mayo Clinic's website suggests that those suffering from dementia--a series of symptoms marked by impaired thinking, communication problems and lack of motor coordination--can benefit from Alzheimer's medications such as memantine and cholinesterase inhibitors, which increase the brain chemicals that assist with reasoning and judgment. However, the article "Mental Health Concerns in the Elderly" on WomensHealth.org warns that for some people, using some medications can increase the chances of developing depression. Anticancer medications, anti-inflammatory medications and the hormone progesterone can cause depression in older people. For this reason, caregivers for the elderly should be fully aware of the range of medications a person is taking and the potential side effects of those medications.

Social Support

Perhaps the most important aspect of psychiatric care for the elderly is in offering social support. MayoClinic.com suggests that in order to prevent the development of dementia, elderly people should be physically and socially active. Taking part in activities such as dancing, swimming and walking can reduce the severity or even the development of symptoms of dementia. Social activities can run the gamut from physical activities, such as walking with a friend or family member, to intellectual activities, such as playing games or learning a language. Regardless of which activities seem most interesting, doing them with someone else can contribute significantly to a person's emotional and mental health.

Caregivers never should assume that mental illnesses are a natural part of aging. The National Institute of Mental Health states that although some mental illnesses are more prevalent in older populations, they are not evident in all elderly people. For this reason, social support to cope with and treat a mental illness is paramount in maintaining psychiatric health in the elderly. Alzheimer's disease, dementia and depression are just some of the mental illnesses that can affect the elderly. Because the process of aging can wear down the mind as well as the body, it's important that caregivers recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness in elderly people. Psychiatric care for the elderly should focus on effectively treating the illness through psychotherapy, medication (if applicable) and social support.