A geriatric psychiatrist is a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders which may occur in older adults. Typically, the disorders may include:
Geriatric psychiatrists take a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis and treatment of patients. This means that such a doctor is required to have skills in listening and responding to the concerns; helping families; and having the ability to work with other health care professionals.
Currently there are 2,360 board-certified psychiatrists who have passed the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology examination for added qualifications in geriatric psychiatry. There are a total of 49 accredited geriatric psychiatry fellowship programs in existence in the United States, and they train less than 100 psychiatrists each year.
The field of geriatric psychiatry is considered to be a specialized field of medicine. This means that to be a geriatric psychiatrist, one must have an M.D., have completed four years of residency, have completed a one-year fellowship in geriatric psychiatry, and must have passed two examinations administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. The first exam is to become board-certified in psychiatry and then another to be certified in the subspecialty of geriatric psychiatry.
A geriatric psychiatry residency is considered to be four years with a training focus on filling roles in academic medicine, clinical psychiatry, research, and administration.
Fellowship programs provide training and education with the primary focus being on:
- Theories of aging
- Geriatric medicine
- Syndromes and treatments in aging
- Aging and dementia
- Biologic treatment
- Memory disorders
Once certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, certification lasts for ten years, and must be renewed by showing participation in continuing education opportunities.
Where Geriatric Psychiatrists Work
Most geriatric psychiatrists work in private and group practices, as well as long-term care facilities, assisted living centers, veteran's hospitals and academic institutions.
The average salary of a geriatric psychiatrist is about $182,700 annually.
How They Help People
The main goal of geriatric psychiatrists is to improve quality of life for patients. Geriatric psychiatrists tend to focus on patients who have mental disorders which may occur in older adults.
These patients may have a variety of medical issues that may include: difficulty coping with change; stress; death and bereavement; depression; memory problems; family history of dementia; anxiety; agitation; or poor sleep.
To help with these problems, a geriatric psychiatrist will first conduct a comprehensive diagnostic examination to evaluate the current problem with attention to its physical, genetic, developmental, emotional, cognitive, educational, family, peer, and social components.
After a diagnosis is made, the geriatric psychiatrist will then design a treatment plan that will take into account all the components associated with the condition. The geriatric psychiatrist will then discuss their recommendation with the patient.
The geriatric psychiatrist will also aim to educate the patient's family about the nature of the patient's condition and how they can best cope with the situation.
Geriatric Psychiatrists and Medical Malpractice
When looking at a potential medical malpractice claim, certain criteria must be met:
- a physician-patient relationship must have existed
- the care provider must owe the patient a duty of care
- there was a failure in some part of the duty of care
- the lack of care was the proximate cause of harm, and
- a harm occurred
Medical malpractice claims against geriatric psychiatrists are rare, but they do happen. When a claim for medical malpractice is brought against a geriatric psychiatrist, it may be because one of the following situations happened:
- Unjustified mandated hospitalization
- Lack of attention to the patient's developing condition
- Failure to have a patient sign a medication consent form
- Inappropriate contact with a patient
- Forcing medication upon a patient
- Breach of confidentiality
- Exploitation of trust
The major issue that a plaintiff seeking a successful medical malpractice claim against a geriatric psychiatrist will need to overcome is whether the negligence on the part of the geriatric psychiatrist actually caused the harm that the patient incurred.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or a loved one has suffered a negligent injury from a geriatric psychiatrist, call the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162.
You have the right to expect medical professionals to operate within the required standard of care. If you suspect that your geriatric psychiatrist acted negligently, you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney. The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian can evaluate your case to determine whether you have a viable claim.