Examining the Role of Geriatric Psychiatry as our Loved Ones are Aging

As empty nesters / Baby Boomers, we are sometimes referred to as the “sandwich generation.” That means we are stuck in between our kids and our parents, like tuna salad between two slices of bread, as both sometimes need some help.

In our family’s case, the pandemic has been hard on both of those generations, which in turn has certainly caused some stress for us. We have written a bit about our trials with one of our children in this series of articles. In them we delve into the types of help available from BetterHelp.com, but now we will take a look at the effect on our elder relatives.

Luckily, we still have two of our four birth parents with us, along with a couple of step parents in the mix, making for three households all together. As expected, they are getting on in years, most in their eighties and one in their nineties.

All except the ninety-one-year-old are still living on their own, but all are experiencing some feelings of isolation these days. Only one couple lives nearby so it has been impossible to see the others for almost a year now, which is no doubt a contributing factor.

That, along with the anxiety caused by this virus, has certainly led to some deterioration of their mental states. Of course, this varies from individual to individual, with one particular parent seeming to suffer more than the others.

In the interest of privacy we will be careful not to get too specific, but not surprisingly the one who is alone and in an assisted living facility seems to be having a noticeably harder time with the lack of family contact and disruption of normal life.

He has also been under psychiatric treatment most of his adult life. However, it may be time to re-examine that in order to make sure the treatment is properly targeted to his age. This is why we were very happy to learn more about geriatric psychiatry from BetterHelp.

There are certain age-specific challenges that we are not sure his long-time psychiatrist may be as adept at addressing as someone who specializes in treating older patients.

Aging can bring about anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and dementia at any time, but these are definitely more likely during the past year with this pandemic.

A trained geriatric psychiatrist understands this and knows what to look for in the patient due to aging. With that knowledge they can offer treatment options and medications tailored specifically to the elderly.

Sometimes physical problems make this difficult, as some symptoms may overlap with psychotic or depressive symptoms. For this reason a thorough physical examination is necessary prior to deciding on a treatment plan.

Some older folks may be quite reluctant to submit to psychiatric treatment due to sometimes archaic attitudes, others may feel embarrassed or even deny any need for it. Fortunately, we won’t have that as an issue in our situation because of his prior history with treatment.

Still, it is very important for us, and all of his family and friends, to be supportive and encouraging as we go forward with any changes that we may decide upon.

We are all trying to keep in touch as much as possible and send photos, especially of a new great grandchild, to keep him feeling connected and vital as a member of the family. This also helps us keep track of any possible changes in behavior.

With all of this in mind, we will be continuing to examine the best way forward for his health, both mental and physical, while hoping for a return to something close to our normal lives soon.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

For more about BetterHelp.com and their programs, please see these previous articles we have shared here on GypsyNester.com:

Some Observations about Online Therapy

Anxiety is Almost Unavoidable These Days

Don’t Let the Cost Stop You from Seeking Help

Exploring the Different Types of Therapy

Identifying Problems in the Present with Cognitive Psychotherapy


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