Psychologists' Knowledge and Skills Are Contributing to The Integrated Health Care of Older Adults

Psychologists have for decades been making major contributions on integrated teams that treat older adults. Psychologists have knowledge and training in normal developmental processes in adulthood and aging. Psychologists also have culturally specific expertise in the assessment and treatment of mental and behavioral health problems facing older adults. Psychologists are:

  • Experts in Cognitive Assessment - Psychologists are knowledgeable about the typically mild cognitive changes associated with normal aging and can assess cognitive changes via cognitive screenings and functional ability evaluations.

  • Experts in Dementia - Psychologists clearly play important roles in the detection and assessment of dementia, in the behavioral and non-pharmacological interventions for problems associated with dementia, and in the non-pharmacological interventions and strategies offered to informal caregivers.

  • Experts in Behavioral Interventions - Psychologists provide interventions including behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and psychodynamic therapies; socio-environmental modifications; cognitive rehabilitation; and life review therapy.

For example, behavioral therapy is useful in treating urinary incontinence, insomnia, and chronic pain. Psychological techniques are also helpful in managing dementia, chronic disease, and sexual dysfunction.

  • Experts in Developing Setting-Specific Plans - Psychologists are able to select interventions that can be implemented most effectively in the specific care setting and recommend adaptations that make older adults safer in their pursuit to preserve their independence.

  • Experts in Prevention - Psychologists are knowledgeable about primary (actions taken to prevent a disorder or injury from occurring) and secondary (identifying and treating a disorder early in its course) prevention and health promotion and are able to apply these skills when appropriate.

  • Experts Serving on Integrated Health Care Teams - Psychologists are indispensible members of integrated health care teams, providing such services as:

    • Consultation to family members, significant others, and other professionals

    • Training and clinical supervision to staff who work with older adults

    • Assisting in the design, implementation and evaluation of new programs

Interprofessional Team Role Map for Geriatric Primary Care