The impact of a geriatric assessment unit on a psychiatric consultation service in a general hospital.
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The opening of a geriatric assessment unit (GAU) in a large general hospital has affected the number of elderly patients referred for psychiatric consultation, the type of psychopathology seen, and the training provided for psychiatric residents and interns on the consultation-liaison service. To examine these changes, the six months prior to the opening of the GAU are compared to the six months immediately following its opening. The number of patients age 65 or older referred and diagnoses made by the consulting psychiatrists were studied. The opening of the GAU significantly increased the number of elderly patients referred for psychiatric consultation. It was found that the GAU offered unique advantages in the assessment and treatment of elderly patients with certain psychiatric problems, and the advantages and limitations of different facilities within the general hospital for the psychiatric assessment and treatment of elderly patients are discussed. A case is presented which illustrates the interplay between the consultation-liaison psychiatrist and the geriatric service in the management of an elderly patient referred for consultation. The experience of this hospital in providing psychogeriatric training for residents and interns on the psychiatric consultation service is reviewed.
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