DMU hosts second annual Geriatric Psych Conference, Oct. 4-5

If you are a health care provider or administrator at a health care organization or agency, Paul Volker, M.D., FAAFP, suggests a very good reason you should consider attending the second annual Geriatric Psych Conference at Des Moines University on Oct. 4-5.

“Geriatrics is a growth industry in the state of Iowa,” says the assistant professor of family and internal medicine at the University.

That’s true nationwide. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections, by 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that one in every five residents will be retirement age. That means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. And while older Americans as a group live longer and work later in life than their parents, their sheer numbers mean cases of dementia and other disorders will grow in number, too.

Hence, back to the good reason for health care professionals to attend the Geriatric Psych Conference. It will feature sessions led by national experts on geriatric dementia and the complications that often accompany the disorder. Presenters include Volker and several clinicians from Broadlawns Medical Center, The Veterans Health Administration, and UnityPoint Health in Des Moines.

Participants can attend the conference onsite in DMU’s Olsen Center or online via GoToWebinar. Cost to attend is $99 for health care professionals and free to students. Continuing education credit is available.

According to the National Council on Aging, one in four older adults experiences some mental disorder including depression and anxiety disorders and dementia. This number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030. Depression affects seven million older Americans, and many do not receive treatment. In fact, two-thirds of older adults with mental health problems do not receive the treatment they need. Current preventative services for this population are extremely limited.

Older patients often exhibit multimorbidity in having several health problems at once, Volker says. That can lead to “polypharmacy” – the topic of Volker’s presentation – or the concurrent use of multiple medications by a patient. This is most common among the elderly; one study showed polypharmacy affects about 40 percent of older adults living in their own homes.

“Medication has a different effect on older patients due to their metabolism rate and body composition. You have to be a lot more cautious,” Volker says. “We know for a fact that certain medications interact with each other. With the compounding issue of multimorbidity, in which patients are likely to be on multiple medications, the effects of those interactions can be impossible to know.”

Volker adds that geriatric care can involve recognizing “at which point we should use medications, and at which point we should use other therapies.” Those and other concepts and approaches will be explored during the second annual Geriatric Psych Conference.

Visit the conference website for more information and to register.