Jun
18

Lack of Specialists in Geropsychology

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Workshop on Helping Older Adults

Anda Jines MS LCPC and Lynda Behrendt PsyD, IPA Director of Professional Affairs and coordinator of the recent series of workshops on geropsychology

Anda Jines MS LCPC and Lynda Behrendt PsyD, IPA Director of Professional Affairs and coordinator of the recent series of workshops on geropsychology

I once more had the pleasure of attending a workshop on geropsychology (psychology of aging) in downtown Chicago.  This was the last of six workshops aimed at training psychologists and counselors like me to effectively help older adults.

Mental Health Medications for Seniors

This time we focused on the very important issue of psychopharmacology with the older adult population.  In other words, we got information about the use of mental health medications for seniors.  As complicated as medication issues can be for the general population; drug interactions, changing metabolism, memory problems, sleep problems, pain, and age related illnesses can make it even more complicated for older adults.

We also discussed delirium, dementia, and psychological (rather than medication) approaches to helping individuals who face these issues;  We discussed Medicare rules, as well as stereotyping of older adults.

Lack of Specialists in Geropsychology

Through the course of these six workshops, one point was made over and over again.  There is a lack of specialists in geropsychology!  Most young psychologists and counselors entering the field are simply not interested in it.  Therefore there are few graduate programs which offer it as a specialty.  Those of us who are interested in helping older adults therefore need to seek out training opportunities like this series of workshops, or seek out the few post graduate training programs available.

This has become a great concern, especially because the baby boomers, who make up about a third of our population, are entering their senior years.  Not only that, but people are living longer than ever before.  For example, the average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 years.  Today it is approximately 77 years in the US.  Big difference! Additionally, today’s young seniors are much more familiar with and receptive to psychological services.

Currently there are various efforts in the psychological community, to prepare us for the increased demand for older adult services.  That is why this workshop series was organized.

The Basics of Geropsychology

Counselors can be effective with most older adults even without specialized training.  But to ensure quality care, it is important for therapists to be familiar with the following areas of information:

  • Adult Development and the Aging Process
  • Neuropsychological Considerations in Geriatric Mental Health
  • The Aging Body
  • Assessment of Older Adults
  • Promoting Self Care Behavior in Older Adults
  • Community Resources for Older Adults
  • Home, Residential and Office Based Practice Models for Working with Older Adults
  • Ethical and Legal Issues Related to Providing Services to Older Adults (e.g.:  health care agents, powers of attorney, guardianship, incapacity)
  • Dementia and Delirium
  • Substance Abuse and Dependence in Later Life
  • Mental Disorders in Later Life
  • Psychotherapy Issues and Interventions with Older Adults
  • Billing and Medicare
  • Loss and Grief
  • Caregiving
  • Psychopharmacology for Older Adults
  • Stereotyping and Cultural Issues

These are the areas that we covered in this six workshop series.  Clearly this is a lot of information, much of which overlaps with previous training that I have had.  Admittedly, there are some areas (of those listed above) that I do not consider myself an expert in.  However, I am now more aware of many factors related to counseling older adults.  And I know when to screen specific problems, and when to refer out for specific testing or treatment.

If you are an older adult, are concerned about an older adult, or if you are a caregiver; and you are in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, feel free to give me a call to set up an appointment or ask about services.  If I cannot help you personnaly, I will help you find someone who can.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park (60477); near Oak Forest, Orland Park, Mokena, and Frankfort.

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