Old age psychiatry
Old age psychiatrists provide specialist and holistic assessment, treatment and ongoing care for older people experiencing mental health problems such as dementia, personality disorders and schizophrenia.
You’ll work with patients experiencing cognitive problems and psychological problems because of the ageing process.
In this video Dr Alex Bailey, Consultant old age psychiatrist, gives an insight into his working life and also the nature of the demands and rewards that come from working in the community with elderly people and the type of person that it would suit as a career.
Life as an old age psychiatrist
- cognitive impairment
- functional disorders (such as depression or psychosis)
- organic disorders (such as memory loss)
- personality disorders
Mental health and social problems often go hand-in-hand. Consequently, you’ll collaborate widely, for example with GPs, occupational therapists and voluntary organisations.
The emphasis is on care in the community and delivering care that allows a patient to remain living at home. You’ll need to work closely with a patient’s family and carers, promoting independence and choice.
Mental health problems in older people differ greatly compared to the younger population. And with an aging population and an increase in dementia and mental health problems, there is a growing demand for first-class old age psychiatrists.
How much can I earn?
How about the benefits?
- make a difference
- flexible and part-time working
- high income early in your career
- work anywhere in the world
- excellent pension scheme
- good holiday entitlement
- NHS discounts in shops and restaurants
- excellent communication skills to manage a wide range of relationships with colleagues, and patients and their families
- emotional resilience, a calm temperament and the ability to work well under pressure
- teamwork and the capacity to lead multidisciplinary teams
- problem-solving and diagnostic skills
- outstanding organisational ability and effective decision-making skills
- first-class time and resource management for the benefit of patients
In addition, old age psychiatrists need to demonstrate:
- empathy and compassion and the ability to treat others with understanding and respect
- a holistic approach to medicine and ability to apply medical and psychiatric skills
- excellent listening skills
- to be willing to build relationships with their patients
If you already have a degree, you could study for a four-year postgraduate degree in medicine.
Some medical schools look to recruit a mix of students from different backgrounds and geographical areas, so your educational and economic background and family circumstances could be considered as part of your application.
How to become an old age psychiatrist
After your foundation programme, you can apply for paid specialty training to become an old age psychiatrist, which will take a minimum of six years.
What are my chances of starting a career in old age psychiatry?
Where a career as an old age psychiatrist can take you
- specialise or conduct research
- teach medical students or postgraduate students in training
- get involved in research at universities, the NHS or private sector
Find a vacancy
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has further information about being an old age psychiatrist, particularly as your career progresses. Take a look.
And watch a video of Sarah, a trainee in old age psychiatry, talking about her experiences.