Geriatric psychology is a psychology specialty that addresses the mental health needs of the elderly. Geriatric psychologists often operate private practices, but can work in a variety of settings including community health centers and nursing homes. They may also focus on research to better understand, control and predict the behavior of older adults.
This profession has both counseling and research-oriented aspects. The geriatric psychologist can help families by helping the patient. The geriatric psychologist is equipped to understand common problems that afflict the elderly, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, and is in a position to prepare both the patient and the patient’s family for the challenges ahead.
What Does a Geriatric Psychologist Do?
The geriatric psychologist specializes in the observation, study and treatment of persons with mental disorders in the later stages of life. This could including studying brain patterns and comparing them with patterns and behaviors of other older adults. Geriatric psychiatry continues to evolve as more becomes known about how the brain functions, especially in older adults.
In addition to these activities, the geriatric psychiatrist can act as an invaluable resource in the medical treatment of depression and dementia, which are two of the most common mental disorders among the elderly. If they are not working directly with older patients, they are able to provide the advice and the plan of treatment necessary for those who directly attend to them.
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Careers in Geriatric Psychology
If you pursue a geriatric psychology degree you will likely end up working in private consultation, with medical organizations or in residential communities. You may also choose to apply your knowledge to academia through professorships. A geriatric psychology professional’s average annual salary is generally around $70,000-$80,000. However, if you have a more entrepreneurial mindset and move into private consultation you may be able to earn considerably more.
Because of its ties to the growing field of health care, geriatric psychology is predicted to continue to be a lucrative and high-demand profession. As the elderly populatation increases and more is discovered about how the brain works, prospects are likely to grow.
Obtaining a Geriatric Psychology Degree
A professional who works in geriatric psychology will need to attain a doctorate degree, which is awarded either as Doctor of Philosophy or Psychology in most states. Separate licensing exams may also be required. Some states may also require a one-year supervised fellowship before final licensing is granted.