Therefore, understanding of the differences that distinguish the elderly from the younger patients has turned vital in the modern care practices. While many of the differences relate to pharmacological and biological changes associated with aging, the psychological aspect of geriatric care can hardly be neglected too. Knowledge of the basic psychological characteristics of elder patients can contribute seriously to the provision of optimal geriatric care (Lyness, 2004).
Over the last two decades, the role of professional psychological services involving elder patients has been increasing. Thus, while in 1986 psychological practice in nursing homes was almost non-existent, after only ten years psychological services became very common in those institutions. Simultaneously, practitioners and researchers started to accumulated specific knowledge related to the unique principles of psychological care of older adults (APA, 2003). The existing data in the field of geriatric care allows identifying the basic psychological principles and concepts understanding of which is critically important for care professionals to be effective in their work with elder patients.
Elder patients have in common a special sensitivity to the psychological quality of care provided by health professionals. This sensitivity is largely due to the perceived biologic vulnerability and decreased ability to cope with stress observed in elder patients (Neugarten, 1984). Therefore, psychological geriatric care requires from care providers to observe several specific principles which help address the unique psychological needs of elder patients.
1. View of Aging Process
The psychological view on the process of aging has transformed seriously over the course of the last century. In the past, growing old was predominantly viewed as a sad and negative experience " an ever-increasing slope, racing quickly toward death" (Sperry & Prosen, 1996: 5). Although such distorted perception of aging still persists in the modern culture, it is far from being as predominant as it was in the past. And what is especially important aging is viewed as a dynamic process that challenges the individual to make continuing behavioral adaptations rather than a static condition that leaves the individual no opportunity for better life (Diehl, Coyle, & Labouvie-Vief, 1996).
However, while majority of modern theorists tend to view aging as a complex dynamic developmental process, the most essential difficulty is changing the traditional perceptions as for the nature of this process. This difficulty is perfectly summarized by Sperry and Prosen (1996): ".the elderly in general will be better served if theorists, clinicians, and researchers develop more positive images of aging. This amounts to a paradigm shift in our thinking about the older adult. To do so we must first confront the myths and misconceptions we have about aging and carefully consider the ever-increasing evidence that aging is in fact a development process" (Sperry & Prosen, 1996: 3).
Such situation can be explained by the fact that absolute majority of theories and perspectives in the field of psychological development of human being focused almost exclusively on the earliest stages of life - infancy, childhood and adolescence. Although psychodynamic, cognitive, humanistic, and behaviorist theories viewed the