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Edited by J P Wattis, S Curran (Pp 268, £24.95). Published by Radcliffe Medical Press Ltd, Abingdon, 2001. ISBN 1857752457
It is a curious thing that old age psychiatry is such a geographically weak discipline. There are many and excellent old age psychiatrists in Australia and Norway. The UK is arguably the home of old age psychiatry and the discipline is well established in the United States. However, in most European countries, let alone further afield, old age psychiatry as a discipline either doesn't exist or is limited in scope.
This is a shame, as amply shown by this book. The argument in favour of old age psychiatry is well presented by Wattis and Curran. It is discipline that is at home with physical disease as much as what used to be called functional disorders; a discipline that is perhaps the most comfortable with multidisciplinary working; a discipline that can move in the course of a day's clinical work from molecular genetics to psychotherapy with demented people. Practical psychiatry of old age, now in its 3rd edition, brings together the many fields of our discipline. It is liberally scattered with useful and interesting case histories and the advice on management is sensible and up to date.
The book is clearly written for a trainee and non-specialist audience and deals with most subjects with a fairly light touch. The references at the end of the chapters serve as useful reading lists, including as they do both recent and historical papers. For students and for trainees this book will provide a useful revision and summary aid although trainees will need also to have to hand some of the weightier texts. Those in other disciplines may well find the book helpful to understand some of the classification and nomenclature issues of old age psychiatry.
Like the discipline itself, however, this book is very much a British affair. The sections on services have only limited international relevance and even the concept of a doctor who manages late onset psychosis, personality disorder, depression, and dementia is not so common elsewhere. The concentration on the international classification of diseases has limited application in the United States. So for those in the UK who need an introductory text to this best of medical disciplines, this book is a sensible choice. To those who have yet to appreciate the joys of being an old age psychiatrist, dip into a colleague's copy—you may be pleasantly surprised.