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Health Forum Online    The Psychologist's Source for C.E. Credits Online

A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Differential Diagnosis of Mental Health Problems in the Elderly: Depression, Dementia, & Delirium

by Julia Weinberg, JD, PhD 4 CE Credits

Diagnoses of mental health conditions in the elderly can be extremely challenging. In fact, a large proportion of elderly patients present with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral signs and symptoms that do not even fit cleanly into well-defined (DSM) diagnostic categories. This course discusses evidence-based approaches to assessing symptoms of cognitive impairment, mood, and psychosis that must be considered in differentiating diagnoses of depression, dementia, and delirium in the elderly. The discussion covers factors that contribute to under-diagnosis and misdiagnosis, including cultural differences and the clinical setting. Specifically, evidence-based instruments for brief cognitive screening are described. Further, an overview of common medical conditions that may underlie the presenting psychological symptoms are provided to facilitate appropriate referrals and/or follow-up for additional assessment and treatment.


Continuing education for this online course is offered through the following approvals:


  • HealthForum is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. HealthForum maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • HealthForum (ACE Provider #1156) is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org, through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) Program. HealthForum maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: (6/20/2017 to 6/20/2020). Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits. Social workers participating in this course will receive 4 Clinical continuing education clock hours.
  • HealthForumOnline, LLC, SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0355
  • HealthForum has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6216.  Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. HealthForum is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.


Course Sections/Outline:

  • Overview
  • Introduction to Symptomatic Domains
  • Changes that Occur in Normal Aging
  • Symptomatic Profiles of Depression, Dementia, and Delirium
  • Cognitive Dysfunction Associated with Treatable Medical Conditions
  • Selecting Brief Screening Instruments
  • Flaws in Diagnostic Decision-making
  • Cultural and Ethnic Factors That Influence Assessment
  • Reducing Flaws in Diagnostic Reasoning
  • Summary
  • References

Learning Objectives:

After completing this course, health professionals will be able to:
  • Review six symptomatic domains most salient in making a differential diagnosis of dementia, depression, and delirium.
  • Use these six domains to comparatively evaluate symptomatic profiles of depression, dementia, and delirium  in the context of normal aging.
  • Recognize the cognitive dysfunction associated with at least 3 treatable medical conditions among the elderly that might influence diagnosis.
  • Identify at least 14 brief cognitive screening measures to assist in the differential diagnosis of depression, dementia, and delirium. 
  • Summarize at least 5 important factors that can contribute to misdiagnoses and under-diagnoses in this population, along with guidelines to enhance diagnostic accuracy.