Counselling the Elderly

Counselling the Elderly

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Counselling the Elderly

The majority of adults typically encounter health problems and stress as they age, and the support of mental health professionals such as a therapist helps make their transition easier. For instance, counselling for anxiety among the elderly is very prevalent. It helps older adults struggling with the aging transitions to find new enjoyment sources, manage their emotions, and find new support systems. Thus, this has made counselling the elderly very important. However, to counsel the elderly, one must possess special counselling skills. Some of these skills include problem-solving skills. While it is not the role of the counselor to solve the problems of an elderly client, counselors who counsel the elderly require outstanding problem-solving skills to assist their clients in identifying and adjusting their negative thought patterns that arise as people grow older. Another special skill for a counselor of the elderly is empathy. Although the counselor might not be an older adult, they should be able to feel what their elderly client is feeling. This assists the client in feeling heard and understood. Flexibility is another special skill required by professionals who counsel the elderly. Since the counselor may not be as old as the client and might not have experienced what the client is going through, they should be capable of transitioning from their perspective to those of their client despite the age difference. Lastly, counselors who serve the elderly population require excellent observational skills in order to be able to watch for certain behaviors and be able to help the client. This is because most of the time, the elderly express themselves through nonverbal communication such as body language and facial expressions.

While counselling the elderly, it is important to instill faith in them. Faith is a source of hope, strength, and comfort for elderly clients during difficult times and brings about a sense of belonging and community (Malone & Dadswell, 2018). Consequently, this allows the elderly client to lead positive lives, despite the various aging challenges. Although counselling the elderly plays an important role in their lives, counselors face difficulties in assessing the elderly clients. Research reveals that the elderly are poor at identifying symptoms of depression and anxiety (Petkus & Wetherell, 2013). According to the authors, although most depressed older adults present with complaints of loss of interest, they deny any depressed mood. Also, the elderly with anxiety disorders fail to identify their experiences as worry or anxiety ad describe their experiences in idiosyncratic terms (Petkus & Wetherell, 2013).

The main issues that affect the elderly include delirium, cognitive impairment, and depression. Cognitive impairment arises with the normal aging process due to protein abnormalities and the shrinking of the brain (Kendall & Wiltjer, 2019). Various assessment tools for cognitive function include the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), which assesses attention, recall, registration, calculation, and capacity to copy simple drawings. Other tools utilized to assess cognition include mini-Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (M-ACE) and the clock drawing test. So far, there are approved drugs for treating cognitive impairment. However, Alzheimer’s drugs such as galantamine and rivastigmine may help slow the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia (O’Brien et al., 2017). On the other hand, depression can be assessed using several validated and reliable tools, such as Depression Inventory (BDI), the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), and the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Therapies for depression among the elderly include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which entails a talk between the client and a therapist on how the client can modify the negative behaviors and thoughts. Also, behavioral therapy and psychotherapy can be used as therapies for depression among the elderly. Delirium is characterized by sudden confusion. It is assessed using various tools such as Delirium Index, DSM-V criteria for delirium, and Delirium Rating Scale (Kendall & Wiltjer, 2019). Confusion is normal among the elderly and can be managed through supportive care to help the client minimize confusion.


Kendall, N. A., & Wiltjer, H. (2019). Assessment of older people 4: assessing the psychological domain. Nursing Times, 115(8), 44-48.

Malone, J., & Dadswell, A. (2018). The role of religion, spirituality, and/or belief in positive ageing for older adults. Geriatrics, 3(2), 1-16.’Brien, J. T., Holmes, C., Jones, M., Jones, R., Livingston, G., McKeith, I., … & Burns, A. (2017). Clinical practice with anti-dementia drugs: a revised (third) consensus statement from the British Association for Psychopharmacology. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31(2), 147-168.

Petkus, A. J., & Wetherell, J. L. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy with older adults: Rationale and considerations. Cognitive and behavioral practice, 20(1), 47-56.