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Unformatted text preview: Chapter 15: Disorders of Aging and Cognition The U.S. population over the age of sixty-five has rapidly increased in the last century, and the number of people over eighty will double in the next ten years. As the field of geropsychology has developed in the last thirty years, two groups of psychological problems affecting the elderly have been identified: problems that are seen in all age groups but are exacerbated by the process of aging (depressive, anxiety, psychotic, and substance-related disorders) and disorders of cognition that result from brain abnormalities (delirium and dementia). Elderly persons with one of these psychological problems will often display others as well. Delirium is a clouding of consciousness in which a person has difficulty concentrating and focusing attention. It is usually accompanied by serious medical problems and, if not diagnosed, may lead to death. When the underlying cause of the delirium is identified and treated, recovery is often achieved. Unfortunately, however, physicians may have great difficulty correctly identifying cases of delirium. Dementia, a syndrome characterized by severe memory loss and other cognitive disturbances, is of particular concern for elderly individuals, and it can have several root causes. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease, in which the brain’s supply of acetylcholine diminishes. While it is unfortunate that dementia is generally not curable and the efficacy of treatments is poor, recent sociocultural interventions, such as day-care facilities and assisted living facilities, have helped to slow the cognitive decline of residents and increase their enjoyment of life.helped to slow the cognitive decline of residents and increase their enjoyment of life....
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