Geriatric Psychiatry

Geriatric Psychiatry and Geriatric Counseling Services

Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health are pleased to offer a full range of medication management and counseling services designed to meet the unique behavioral health needs of older adults. Our geriatric psychiatry and senior counseling services specialize in evaluating and treating the mental health and drug and alcohol issues affecting seniors.

How common is mental health illness among older adults?

The Who Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the US National Council on Aging (NCOA) each indicate that approximately 15-20% of all adults 60 years or older experience a mental health illness. The suicide rate for adults 85 years or older is the highest among all adults in the United States and the suicide rate for adults between the ages of 75-84 is the second-highest. The 2019 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) reports that drug and alcohol abuse affects approximately 17% of adults over the age of 60.

Geriatric psychiatry

Assessment of cognitive functioning

Our bodies change as we get older. We may be most familiar with changes in our physical functioning and medical conditions. In addition, our brain functioning changes too and often the first changes we recognize are changes in our memory. The geriatric psychiatry and counseling program at Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health can help identify if an individual has a mental health illness or substance abuse disorder or dementia.

Dementia or Depression?

It is often difficult to tell the difference between the symptoms of depression and dementia. While symptoms of depression and dementia may overlap, our specialized geriatric psychiatric and counseling services can help differentiate between depression and dementia.

For example, depression is often considered if an individual’s symptoms include the following:

• Rapid mental decline
• Difficulty concentrating
• Slow but intact speech
• May not respond to questions
• Aware of memory problems
• Memory/concentration, energy responds to treatment
• Remain aware of surroundings, time, date.

Whereas dementia is often characterized by the following:

• Slow mental decline unless there has been a stroke (CVA) or traumatic brain injury (TBI),
• Decline in concentration
• A decline in short-term memory (long term memory may not decline)
• Lost in familiar places, disoriented spatial functioning
• Impaired writing, motor skills, speech
In many cases, the individual with dementia may not be aware of his or her memory problems or they may try to cover up their cognitive problems by making up information (this is called confabulation).

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)?

MCI is often described as the middle stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. Specifically, with MCI, the problems in memory, language, thinking, and judgment are greater than typical age-related changes. Often the individual may be aware that they are having some change in their memory or mental function. Family and close friends may also notice a “slip” in these areas.

Some signs of MCI include:

• Changes in functioning that interfere with day-to-day life and usual activities.
• Irritability, aggression, anxiety
• Depression, apathy

Having MCI increases the risk of developing dementia, especially when the primary difficulty is memory. But some people with MCI never get worse, and a few eventually get better.

What are some factors that increase the risk of developing MCI?

Some risk factors that cannot be controlled are: getting older and having a certain gene. But, other medical conditions and lifestyle factors are also linked to an increased risk of cognitive change.

These factors can be controlled and include:
Diabetes, smoking, depression, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, lack of physical exercise, Infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities

How can Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health help?

Our geriatric psychiatry and counseling service understands the unique psychological issues that older adults face. These may include: preparing for retirement or changes in one’s life, dealing with loss, reflecting on life’s successes, legacy and remaining challenges, relationship issues, and medical concerns are all areas that are specially trained geriatric counselors address.