In the UK, one in four people over the age of 65 live with a common mental health condition, but just 15% of those are receiving help from the NHS. The referral rate for older people to receive counselling through the NHS is just 7%, despite official figures showing it should be closer to 12% (Age UK). This disparity means that many older people are unable to receive the help they need, resulting in untreated and often debilitating mental health problems that shape and override their senior years.
Amongst those who are referred for counselling, many see general psychiatrists who aren’t specifically trained to deal with the complexities of old age psychiatry, meaning patient outcomes aren’t always the best they can be.
From a lack of mental health services funding to patients feeling like they can’t or don’t want to ask for help – there are many reasons why the older population may be more at risk of unmanaged mental health conditions, but that’s where private neurology clinics like Dementech Neurosciences can help.
At Dementech Neurosciences, we have a team of expert old age psychiatrists who work in tandem with our other specialists, including dementia consultants, to provide adequate and favourable outcomes for senior patients who need mental health care.
In this article, we’re going to look at old age psychiatry in more detail, the role old age psychiatrists play in patient care, and the benefits of an age-specific approach as opposed to ‘ageless’ services.
What is an Old Age Psychiatrist?
An old age psychiatrist is a medical professional who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders in elderly patients. They are specifically trained to work with patients over the age of 65 and are experts in treating conditions such as dementia, depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
Old age psychiatrists differ from other psychiatrists, largely because the challenges presented by managing the mental and cognitive health of older people is more complex than in younger populations. Ethics and clinical decisions need to be carefully considered and balanced, and a holistic approach needs to be undertaken. Elderly patients generally have co-existing physical conditions and often have a high rate of polypharmacy (multiple medicines are taken at once), making treatment more nuanced and the role of an old age psychiatrist more specialised.
The day-to-day tasks of an old age psychiatrist typically involve assessing and diagnosing patients, prescribing medications and therapies, and working with other healthcare professionals to provide a comprehensive care plan that considers all patient outcomes. They also provide counselling services to patients and their families, as well as information on support groups and other educational resources.
At Dementech Neurosciences, our old age psychiatrists are highly qualified and experienced in treating a wide range of mental health conditions in older patients. They work closely with our other specialists to provide personalised care and support to each patient, helping them to achieve optimal mental health and wellbeing.
Old Age Psychiatry Conditions
At Dementech Neurosciences, we understand the unique challenges faced by seniors when it comes to their mental health. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing compassionate care and tailored treatment plans to address a range of conditions that can affect the ageing population, including functional and organic disorders, as well as personality disorders and general frailty.
Some of the most common conditions that are treated by old age psychiatrists include:
Depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are common conditions that can affect anyone, but they are particularly prevalent in older adults. In the UK, it is estimated that up to 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 and over experience symptoms of depression, with 10% of older adults experiencing anxiety (Mental Health Foundation). Despite the prevalence of depression and anxiety in older people, and the fact that around 2.4 million seniors have depression severe enough that it impacts and impairs their overall quality of life, less than half receive appropriate care.
At Dementech Neurosciences, our team of old age psychiatrists are best placed to help those over the age of 65 manage both the mental and physical symptoms of depression and anxiety, making sure no one under their care suffers in silence.
Our brains change as we get older, and it’s normal to experience some cognitive decline. As we age, we process information more slowly, and executive functions, such as the ability to multitask or remember information clearly and quickly, can be impacted. Despite cognitive impairment being a natural part of ageing, it presents many challenges for those who experience it, including socially and mentally.
Getting the help of an old age consultant psychiatrist can help with coming to terms with ageing and how it affects the body and mind, as well as determining ways to overcome any obstacles that are present as a result.
Psychosis is somewhat common in the elderly population, with approximately 20% of people over 65 going on to display psychotic symptoms before the age of 85 – the majority of whom won’t develop dementia. From those who have been living with a psychotic mental illness for a number of years to those who develop psychosis symptoms in old age, the Dementech team is experienced in working with patients with challenging, paranoid, and delusional symptoms.
Schizophrenia is a less common but still significant mental health condition that can affect older adults. It is estimated that around 0.2% of adults aged 65 and over in the UK have schizophrenia. Our team of experts at Dementech Neurosciences has extensive experience in managing the symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations and delusions.
Dementia is a condition that is commonly associated with ageing, although it should be noted that it is not a normal part of ageing. In the UK, it is estimated that there are currently over 850,000 people living with dementia, with this number expected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040. There are lots of different types of dementia and how a person is impacted can vary – but generally speaking, people with dementia will experience a combination of mental and physical symptoms, some of which they may be aware of in the early stages.
At Dementech, we offer a range of services to diagnose and manage dementia, including cognitive assessments and personalised care plans designed to maximise the quality of life for each patient for as long as possible.
Overall, we take a holistic approach to care, ensuring that all aspects of a patient’s mental and physical health are taken into consideration when developing a treatment plan – no matter the condition.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, we encourage you to seek help. Our team at Dementech Neurosciences is here to support you every step of the way.
The Role of Old Age Psychiatry in Supporting Independent Living
Old age psychiatry can play a crucial role in supporting independent living for the elderly. By helping patients maintain a sense of purpose, supporting close relationships with loved ones, aiding memory and cognitive function, and maintaining a sense of individuality, psychiatrists can help patients to live fulfilling and independent lives, as we explain below.
Help to maintain a sense of purpose
One way that old age psychiatry can support independent living is by helping patients maintain a sense of purpose. As we age, it is common to experience a loss of direction or feel like our lives lack meaning. However, with the help of a psychiatrist, patients can explore new hobbies, interests and passions that can give them a renewed sense of purpose. This can help to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can be detrimental to mental health and are common among elderly people.
Keep close relationships with loved ones and friends
Another way that old age psychiatry can help is by supporting close relationships with loved ones and friends. Maintaining social connections is vital for mental health and can improve overall quality of life. However, as we age, it can become more challenging to stay connected to those we love. Old age psychiatry can help patients to identify and address any barriers to socialising, such as mobility issues or communication difficulties, and work to find solutions that allow them to maintain close relationships with their loved ones.
Aid memory and cognitive issues
Old age psychiatry can also aid memory and cognitive issues that may arise with age. Cognitive impairment is a common concern among the elderly, with over 800,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia. Psychiatrists can work with patients to improve memory and cognitive function, which can help to maintain independence and overall quality of life. This can involve activities such as brain training exercises or medication to address underlying conditions like depression or anxiety, which can affect cognitive function.
Keep a sense of individuality
Finally, old age psychiatry can help patients maintain a sense of individuality, which is essential for mental wellbeing. As we age, it can be easy to feel like our identity is being eroded by physical and mental changes. However, a good psychiatrist can work with patients to understand their values, beliefs and personal goals, and help them to maintain a sense of self – despite any challenges they may face.
Old Age Psychiatry at Dementech Neurosciences
At Dementech Neurosciences, we understand the importance of providing support to patients who are experiencing mental health issues related to ageing. Our team of experienced psychiatrists and neurologists is dedicated to helping patients maintain their independence and quality of life, no matter what challenges they may face. If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health issues related to ageing, we encourage you to contact us for support.