At present, life expectancy has increased significantly compared to the past and is expected to continue to increase dramatically over the next several decades thanks to advances in medicine and other health specialties in the fields of education. , technology and science.
On the other hand, the high prevalence of the elderly poses new challenges for health professionals, as there are a greater number of cases with different pathologies, including those of mental health.
In this context, psychogerontology and psychogeriatrics have become increasingly important due to its great importance in helping the field of psychology to promote the well-being and improve the quality of life of the elderly. That is why this article will briefly explain what this specialty consists of in the field of psychology.
What is psychogerontology?
Psychogerontology is a specialty in the field of psychology and psychiatry that is gaining more and more importance in the 21st century so that psychologists can respond to the demands of a population with a increasing prevalence of the elderly.
This discipline is focused on the research and study of aging people and on using intervention and treatment methods that prevent and / or delay cognitive disorders and also promote good mental health and well-being. elderly people, as well as their relatives. .
When operating in these cases, it is best to do so in a family, social and community context that integrates as much as possible into everyday life.
This psychology specialty is generally carried out by a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, geriatricians and psychiatrists, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and health auxiliaries, all specialized in the field of gerontology, who work with a biopsy model according to individual needs. patient.
Functions of professionals in psychogerontology
The fundamental objective of a psychogerontologist promote good mental health, as much as possible, during the aging process of those you care for.
It is important to note that it is now known that the human brain has a plasticity that allows people to learn throughout their lives, so that as they age they are still able to optimize their physical and cognitive abilities. and, by adapting to it. environment according to their needs, can compensate for the decline of faculties.
In addition, treatments in the field of psychogerontology aimed at promoting physical activity (through regular physical exercise in a light way), mental (through tasks that require the use of cognitive faculties, such as memory) and emotional (through psychological support and the promotion of their own emotional regulation capacities) have shown high efficiency in the progression of biopsychosocial functioning of the elderly.
Among the functions of professionals in psychogerontology are the following:
- Assessment, treatment and support for the elderly.
- Help relatives and caregivers of the elderly.
- Psychoeducational programs for the prevention of pathologies and the promotion of active old age.
- Family mediation.
- Teaching through courses and postgraduate courses for future professionals in psychogerontology.
- Promote active learning throughout life to prevent cognitive impairment.
- Retirement preparation and adaptation programs for people close to this stage.
Who is helped in the field of psychogerontology?
In the field of psychorendology It works primarily with older people, although it also tends to facilitate a better evolution of the process when it comes to working with caregivers and / or relatives..
It is also important to adapt the context in which the older people with whom the intervention is carried out live and carry out their daily activities, so that it can develop in a facilitating environment that provides the necessary resources. that he can face his everyday life as well as possible. All this with the help of relatives and / or caregivers.
1. Elderly people
The population to which psychogerontology is mainly addressed is that of the elderly and the approach varies according to the degree of autonomy of people who are usually linked to physical and mental health.
1.1 Primary aging: regulatory
People who are going through a regulatory aging process, the changes undergone are usually gradual and very frequent, as they can be given to anyone from a certain age, although in good health, thanks to the passage of the years. In these cases, they usually have levels of psychological, physical and social functioning appropriate to their age.
In these cases, the role of psychogerontologists is focused on primary prevention, which is to promote active aging by guiding these people through a series of exercises and tasks that keep the brain and body active so that they remain as independent as possible and to be able to prevent possible physical and cognitive impairments .
1.2 Secondary or tertiary aging: non-normative or pathological
It is this aging process that the elderly and sometimes less advanced people suffer from. their psychological, physical and social capacities are altered to the point of no longer being adapted to their age., thus they limit their autonomy. For example, this happens to the elderly who develop Alzheimer’s disease.
In these cases, the objective of psychogerontology professionals would be to favor a type of secondary or tertiary prevention, depending on the level of impairment of the person to be treated, in order to promote the greatest possible well-being by guiding a series of tasks. .
2. Caregivers and / or relatives of the elderly
In the field of psychogerontology, it is also important to work with caregivers and relatives who live together or are cared for by an elderly person. Especially if this person suffers from a pathological physical and cognitive impairment which prevents him from having autonomy according to his age.
With caregivers of the elderly, it is very useful for them to carry out continuous training with professionals at the same time as the treatment with the caregiver. In this training, care must be taken to ensure that caregivers learn a series of accompanying instructions that facilitate the accomplishment of the tasks entrusted by professionals to the elderly, in order to promote their autonomy and prevent a deterioration of their physical and mental capacities. .
These guidelines must be adapted according to whether the care of the elderly is done at home or in an institutional setting, such as a retirement home, where the resources and assistance available are different.
Outraged, it is important to provide psychoeducation to both family members and caregivers of the elderly, where they are explained in detail how normative and pathological aging is to be developed. Also, if your loved one or the person you are caring for suffers from pathological aging, you must explain to them what pathologies you suffer from and how to treat and delay their development, by teaching them the instructions to follow. to help with the process.
It is also crucial provide psychological support to all people with whom the treatment process is carried out (elderly people with or without pathologies, relatives and caregivers).
Areas of professional development
Intervention in the field of psychogerontology can be done in various contexts, highlighting them as the most common:
- Private clinics.
- Health centers and hospitals.
- Residences for the elderly.
- Address of the person with whom the intervention is carried out and the Support.
- Centers subsidized by the town hall.
- Association centers of psychogerontology.
- Association center for retirees.
- Experienced universities for the elderly.
- Research centers focused on the field of psychogerontology.
Finally, it is important to note that there are other names to refer to the field of mental health professionals specializing in the treatment of the elderly (psychogeriatrics, psychiatry or geriatric psychology and gerontopsychiatry) and that at present, the differences between them have not yet been noticed, giving rise to possible confusion, so that they are often used indiscriminately.