Professional and ethical issues in working with older adults
This chapter focuses on professional and ethical issues that arise in clinical practice while working with older adults, i.e., people aged 65 years and over. Ageism and its influence on clinical practice are discussed. McGuire posits that all psychologists should ensure that they have the knowledge and skills that demonstrate their expertise regarding the ‘aging process’ and how this impacts upon the older person’s mental health, so that the treatment intervention is delivered in a ‘beneficent and ethical manner’ (2009: 114). The work of counselling/clinical psychologists and therapists is based on the fundamental acknowledgement that all people have the same human value and the right to be unique individuals, and that they will treat all people, both clients and colleagues, with dignity and respect and will work with them collaboratively as partners towards the achievement of mutually agreed goals. The attitude that the clinician brings to working with older adults is fundamental in delivering person-centred care, whereby the older person is treated as an individual, rather than based on stereotypes and/or assumptions. The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) has developed policies that are connected to being inclusive and confronting matters regarding ‘diversity and equality’, which also includes age (UKCP, 2013). They have seven work streams that cover many aspects of this very important area. One of these streams is ‘The Image of Psychotherapy in Minority Communities’, that is related to older adults, therapy designed for them, and also how they can access services (Akinsete and Nadirshaw, 2013). Clinicians need to be aware of the need to adhere to and also be guided by explicit and public statements of the ethical principles that underpin their work (BPS, 2009).