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. With more responsibility falling to providers untrained in senior mental health, an Indiana University scientist has co-authored a guide.
Dr. Sophia Wang is a geriatric psychiatrist and scientist with the Indiana University Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science. She 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,” says Wang.
And much of the caregiving responsibility falls to doctors and nurses untrained in geriatric medicine. Indiana has less than 100 geriatricians – statewide – and even fewer specialize in psychiatry.
“Especially in many rural areas in Indiana and other parts of the country, there are no geriatricians available and many people rely on their primary care physicians to provide that care,” 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,’” says Wang. “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.