Treatment of Late Life Psychopathology

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Many older adults with recognized mental health problems are prescribed medications by their treating physicians in primary care settings. However, a substantial body of geropsychotherapy research over the past two decades has resulted in the development of a variety of psychological treatments for some of the most common mental health problems faced by older adults. Clinical geropsychologists provide psychotherapy or so-called talking treatments for these problems. For example, a number of theoretically and practically distinct treatments (e.g., psychodynamic or insight-oriented, cognitive-behavioral or learning-based, interpersonal therapy) have been found to be effective in the treatment of depression among healthy older adults. Psychological treatments are also available for anxiety disorders and sleep disorders such as Insomnia. There is a nascent but growing body of clinical research for older adults with Schizophrenia and older adults who engage in health-damaging substance abuse behavior (e.g., alcohol abuse). The few medical and psychosocial treatments currently available for dementia are focused on managing problem behaviors such as wandering and agitation. New treatments currently under development focus on managing the emotional problems such as depression that often co-occur with dementia. Given the literature documenting the substantial negative emotional and health impacts associated with caregiving for an older adult suffering from a dementia, geropsychologists may also administer psychological interventions to improve the functioning and emotional well-being of family caregivers. Effective caregiver interventions may serve the beneficial purpose of delaying the older adult's entry into a long-term care setting.

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