Medical Conditions in the Elderly Often Misdiagnosed as Psychiatric

Kermit Cole

27 (24%) of 112 geriatric patients admitted consecutively to an inpatient psychiatric unit had delirium from underlying medical conditions that was misdiagnosed as a psychiatric disorder, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. “If a patient has a previous psychiatric history, physicians are not as scrupulous or as careful to screen them for underlying medical issues,” said Dr. Meera Balasubramaniam; “they are more likely to send them to a psych unit, thinking all of their behavioral manifestations are actually psychiatric.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]