Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent class of mental health condition among older adults, and they are associated with adverse consequences for physical and cognitive health. Unfortunately, although cognitive-behavioral therapy is more effective than no treatment or treatment as usual among older people with anxiety disorders and related conditions, it may be less effective than in younger and middle-aged individuals. Other behavioral interventions, such as supportive therapy and relaxation training, may be as effective as CBT for many anxiety-related conditions in later life, and medications, particularly SSRIs, may be more effective. This presentation reviews the evidence for psychological interventions, particularly CBT, relaxation training, and mindfulness-based approaches, for anxiety disorders and related conditions (PTSD, Hoarding Disorder, disproportionate fear of falling) in elderly people. Both traditional in person and alternative modes of delivery will be described. The presentation also briefly discusses the role of pharmacotherapy in treating this population. Finally, we discuss a case that illustrates some features of working with an anxious older individual: the difficulty of distinguishing anxiety from depression and cognitive impairment, the limits of psychotherapy, and the benefit of multidisciplinary treatment, including environmental modifications.
This webinar is eligible for 1 CE/CE Credit. Click here for more information.
Julie Wetherell, Ph.D., ABPP, is an internationally recognized expert on behavioral interventions for geriatric anxiety. She is a board-certified geropsychologist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, where she directs behavioral medicine services as a member of the Home-Based Primary Care team, and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, where she conducts research on geriatric mental health and teaches and supervises graduate and medical students, postdoctoral psychology and psychiatry fellows, and psychiatry residents in research and clinical work. She earned a B.A. at Yale and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with specialization in aging at the University of Southern California. After a geropsychology internship at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Diego’s Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research in Geriatric Mental Health. Her research has been funded by the Veterans Health Administration and the National Institutes of Health since 1997. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed research articles and 25 book chapters on the topic of mental health and aging, and she is an Associate Editor of the 2015 edition of the American Psychological Association Handbook of Clinical Geropsychology. She is a past winner of the APA Division 12 (Clinical Psychology) David Shakow Early Career Award and a Fellow of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section of the Gerontological Society of America for her contributions to the field of aging.