Skip to main content

Geriatric Mental Health: Substance Use Problems and the Older Adult

Explore physical and mental change in the elderly population. Understand how the aging process can play a role in substance abuse in older adults. Get tips on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment strategies for drug and alcohol abuse.

Key Program Information
Categories Continuing Education | Degrees, Certificates, and Courses for Contemporary Learners | Human Services | Professional and Workforce Development
Program Type Non-Credit
Delivery Format Face-to-Face

Who Should Attend

Any human service or health care professional who works with the elderly.

Older man with both hands placed on top of a cane held out in front of him.

Program Description

Learn about current trends, research, and prevention in older adult substance abuse.

There are over 2.5 million aging adults in the U.S. with an alcohol or drug problem. Abuse of these substances in older adults is one of the fastest growing health problems facing our country, yet our awareness, understanding, and response to this problem sometimes falls short.

The social and physical changes that accompany aging may well increase vulnerability to drug-related issues in this population. Furthermore, the stresses that correlate may cause some older adults to use drugs to self-medicate for anxiety or depression. Understanding the reasons elderly people may turn to drugs or alcohol later in life is crucial to recognizing the potential drug abuses in older patients, as it is often hidden, overlooked, or misdiagnosed.

This course specializing in substance abuse in older adults explores interventions and treatments that can improve health and enhance life satisfaction. You will be able to identify effects of harmful substances on the elderly, recognize symptoms of abuse, understand instruments for assessment, and implement effective treatment strategies.

What you will learn:

  • Interventions and treatments that improve quality of life
  • Effects of substance abuse in the elderly
  • How the brain and body responds to substance abuse
  • Avoidance of medication mismanagement
  • Tools and strategies for assessing treatment
  • Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Intervention (SBRI)

This advanced program is ideal for social workers, nurses, counselors, hospice care workers and administrators, licensed practitioners and allied health professionals who work with older adults.

The course is an elective seminar that is part of a Certificate offered through UW-Madison, one of only 3 in the U.S. Individuals who want to earn their Certificate in Mental Health and the Older Adult must complete 5 required seminars and 3 elective seminars, in addition to the Summer Institute which is offered every even-numbered year.  Seminars in the certificate series may also be taken individually. All requirements must be completed in 2 years.


Suzanna Waters Castillo, PhD, MSSW is a Distinguished Faculty Associate who develops and directs the inter-professional continuing education curriculum in Geriatric Mental Health at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Continuing Studies, Behavioral Health Unit. She is a founding member of the Wisconsin Geriatric Psychiatry Initiative/ at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Waters Castillo conducts national and international outreach scholarship that includes the formation of a community of practice dedicated to knowledge network formation and provision of quality geriatric mental health care. She is a member of the inter-professional faculty for the Mental Health and Older Adult Certificate Series at UW Madison where she teaches credit and non-credit courses. In addition she has both extensive clinical experience in geriatric social work and statewide policy implementation in home and community based care.


UW-Oshkosh Continuing Education

UW Oshkosh Logo

This program is brought to you in partnership with UW-Oshkosh.

*Listing of partners does not represent endorsement by UW-Eau Claire Continuing Education/Extension.

Sign up for our newsletter!