Psychological assessment seeks to gain a better understanding of a person’s emotional experience, behavior, and personality. It is useful to help people understand events and patterns in their lives, as well as accurately diagnose psychological conditions and make informed and individualized treatment recommendations. Personality assessment is a type of psychological assessment that can help employers learn more about the suitability of job fit for potential employees.
Geriatric Psychology is a specialty area within Clinical Psychology devoted to meeting the psychological assessment and treatment needs of older adults. Psychologists working with seniors are trained to recognize potential causes of psychological difficulties in older adults and to provide effective treatment in order to improve the individuals’ quality of life. Psychologists are also skilled in providing assistance in helping individuals cope with loss.
Older adults sometimes find themselves dealing with medical illness, physical limitation, and/or social loss not encountered earlier in life. Therefore, psychological problems of this age group most often involve depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorders. Sometimes these difficulties develop as a natural reaction to losses or limitations. However, depression and anxiety can also be associated with medical illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes, or can occur as a side effect of medication.
Many older adults see a psychologist when referred by their physician, who has detected symptoms of psychological difficulties. Often, psychologists work together with the physician to determine the best course of treatment. Sometimes, symptoms of depression and anxiety can mimic physical illness. For example, depression often presents as excessive fatigue and feelings of malaise in the older adult. Thus, once comprehensive medical evaluation has ruled out medical illness, adequate treatment of anxiety and depression can often reduce the number of additional visits to the doctors’ office and may prevent unnecessary medical procedures.
Sometimes a neuropsychologist may be asked to perform a neuropsychological evaluation to assess whether memory or other problems in functioning may be due to dementia. Dementia may be due to Alzheimer’s but can also be due to cerebrovascular factors, Lewy Body Disease, small or large strokes, and other conditions.
Sometimes psychological difficulties can have an impact on others around the older individual, such as their spouse, thus creating the need to include others, e.g. family members, in the older adults’ treatment. This is especially true when the condition faced by the individual is progressive, such as in the case of Alzheimer’s Disease. Effective psychological interventions with older people, their families, and their health care providers can greatly improve an individual’s quality of life.