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Meeting the Growing Mental Health Needs of Seniors

January 20, 2017

A new pocket guide addressing elder mental health issues has been published, with the goal of rapidly teaching all health care professionals the basics of diagnosing and treating mental health disorders in adults over 65 years of age.

Nearly 20% of older Americans experience depression and the highest rate of suicide is among older adult Caucasian males. Despite the anticipated growth of mental health needs due to the growing geriatric population in the United States, there is currently only one geriatric psychiatrist for every 23,000 older Americans.

“Most older adults are seen by primary care physicians. Too often these busy physicians are juggling the patient's multiple physical problems, and incorrectly diagnose mental health issues as irreversible cognitive impairment,” said Sophia Wang, MD, Indiana University Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science.
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DSM-5 Pocket Guide for Elder Mental Health” by Dr Wang and coauthor psychiatrist Abraham M Nussbaum, MD, Denver Health and University of Colorado, is meant to puts easy-to-read information on elder mental health problems and treatment at the fingertips of primary care and other physicians, physician assistants, nurses, social workers—as well as family members familiar with the day-to-day activities of the older adult—to help secure the correct diagnosis and treatment.

“Because dementia is so common in older adults, clinicians may incorrectly diagnose it without ruling out other problems that we know can be reversed -- for example depression, sleep disorders, drug effects or alcohol. Dementia should be the last mental health condition they consider only after ruling out reversible causes of mental illness,” said Dr Wang.

The 400-page pocket guide provides step-by-step instructions on beginning dialogues on depression, substance abuse, and suicide as well as diagnostics on these conditions and others including delirium and dementia. It is published by American Psychiatric Association Publishing, a division of the American Psychiatric Association.—Amanda Del Signore

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