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Book Forum: GERIATRICS   |    
Handbook of Clinical Geropsychology
Am J Psychiatry 1999;156:791-791.
View Author and Article Information
Iowa City, Iowa

edited by Michel Hersen, and Vincent B. Van Hasselt. New York, Plenum, 1998, 574 pp., $90.00.

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There is a large potential audience for this volume. The editors propose that the book will be of interest to both professionals and students from a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, rehabilitation, and education. The danger in a book that attempts to be all things to all people is that it can be superficial in content and trivial to the audience that it attempts to reach. This book has none of these shortcomings, despite the youth of the subspecialty, clinical geropsychology. It is well written overall and, equally important, well edited.

The book has 25 chapters that are divided into three sections. The first section, General Issues, begins with a chapter on the history of geropsychology as well as an overview of what the future holds for the subspecialty. Other chapters in the section cover the psychological tasks involved in aging, the normal memory changes that occur with aging, the moral and ethical considerations associated with treating a geriatric population, and the unique contributions that can be made to the care of the geriatric patient by geropsychologists. Although the chapters in this section lack an inherently unifying theme, they are thorough and well written. It is difficult to cover a discipline this broad, but the first section is easy to read and informative.

The second section, Psychopathology, Assessment, and Treatment, contains information about psychiatric disorders that either occur or persist in late life. Chapter topics include dementia, substance abuse disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and mental retardation. The final chapter summarizes the value of behavioral medicine in the treatment of psychiatric illness in the elderly. The chapters are very readable and up-to-date overall. They cover pertinent information as well as common misconceptions about the elderly and the psychiatrically ill. For example, the chapter on depression describes the co-occurrence of serious medical illness and depression and addresses the problems of overlapping symptoms as well as the prejudice of the physician and the family that depression is normal given the circumstances. The tone is educational rather than confrontational, and the solutions offered are practical. Additionally, there is no repetition of information among the chapters in a section; nor are there contradictions between chapters.

The third section, Special Issues, addresses problems faced by elderly adults and their caregivers, including health and well-being in retirement, pain management, bereavement, marriage and divorce, elder abuse and neglect, physical activity, minority issues, and family caregiving. This section rounds out the volume, providing education about a wide range of issues as well as potential treatment and prevention strategies.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this volume to students and professionals new to the area of geriatrics and geropsychology; I also recommend it as a concise review for more experienced professionals. I think it would be of particular interest to geropsychologists, geriatric psychiatrists, geriatricians, and primary care providers.




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