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Psychiatrist Writes Guide For Caregivers On Senior Mental Health

Elderly

There are too few geriatricians to treat senior Hoosiers, and national projections indicate, by 2030, there will be only one geriatric psychiatrist for every 27,000 seniors.

With more responsibility falling to providers untrained in senior mental health, Indiana University scientist Dr. Sophia Wang co-authored a guide.

Wang, a scientist at Indiana University Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science, says caregivers need to know the mental health risks for older adults.

"About 20 percent of older adults experience depression and the highest rate of suicide is among older adult Caucasian males," Wang said.

Much of the care-giving responsibility falls to doctors and nurses untrained in geriatric medicine. Indiana has less than 100 geriatricians, and even fewer are specialized in psychiatry.

Wang says the newly published guide uses symptoms and example cases to direct diagnosis.

"Healthcare professionals will quickly diagnosis someone with cognitive impairment, and they say, ‘Oh, they must have dementia,'" Wang said. "But we know, as geriatricians, that should be the last thing to be diagnosed."

The guide is meant to help health care professionals approach the subject with older patients and offer more confident treatment. It is part of an effort to build a broader diagnostic manual for mental health.

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