Older Mind Matters

No fog on the Tyne: old age psychiatry, driving and dementia

I'm writing this at the Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry annual residential conference in Newcastle upon Tyne and reflecting on sparkling moments so far.

I went to a workshop on driving with dementia/ MCI and it was outstanding. The presenters used an interactive design so that the audience could vote to indicate what they would do in relation to particular cases, and it worked really well to facilitate debate and discussion. Do you tell this man to inform the DVLA? Do you tell this woman she's unfit to drive and to stop driving? What do you do if she's driven to the clinic? What do you do if her licence is revoked but she doesn't stop driving? Driving issues come up regularly in the  memory clinic where I see people.

There was also a debate about the name of the specialty, old age psychiatry. Should the name be changed and if so what alternative would be better? (Curiously geriatric psychiatry wasn't on the shortlist!) There was an overwhelming vote in favour of staying as we are. These were some of the arguments I found powerful but with my own slant on them:

  • We should fight the stigma around being old rather than reinforcing it by changing our name.
  • We are what we are, and should be proud of what we are. None of the alternatives get away from the facts that we're interested in ageing and mental health - be bold not bashful (I've borrowed that from another context)
  • Instead of navel gazing we should focus on the important issues in services today
  • We may stand to lose by changing our brand/ identity - we have a profile as old age psychiatry
  • Using the term old age psychiatry opens up discussion about being old and being aged
  • Is psychiatry an equally problematic label?

There are fashions in names so do we keep changing to keep up? (And I suspect stigma sticks - it moves with the name.) I would be interested in other thoughts on this.

Through the window of the hotel we had lovely views of the Tyne and the city. No fog on the Tyne during our stay.

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