Geriatric Psychiatry

The Royal’s Geriatric Psychiatry Program assesses and treats mental illnesses experienced by adults over age 65. We work with older adults and their families to address the mental health challenges they are experiencing with aging.

Working together with patients, families (or substitute decision makers), primary care physicians, community psychiatrists, and community agencies, our interdisciplinary team aims to improve our patients’ quality of life so they can reach their highest possible level of recovery. 

Caring for the mental health of older adults  

Older adults may be living with mental illnesses that they developed earlier in life (such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia), or they may develop these conditions for the first time after age 65. 

They are also more likely to develop cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer disease or other forms of dementia that can make it harder to manage previously diagnosed health problems, alter personality and behaviours, and require specific treatment. 

All of these problems can be overwhelming if left untreated, but effective treatments are available.

We have a team of professionals who specialize in the treatment of older adults, including: 

  • psychiatrists 
  • psychologists 
  • nurses
  • dietitians
  • occupational therapists
  • recreation therapists
  • physiotherapists
  • pharmacists
  • social workers
  • behaviour therapists
  • support staff
  • volunteers

We provide services in both English and French.


You or your family member will need a referral from a physician or nurse practitioner to access this program’s services or the appropriate rural outreach service listed below.


The Geriatric Psychiatry Program provides treatment and support through a variety of services designed to care for older adults in all stages of their illnesses. 

We treat each patient according to their individual needs and each service works closely with the client’s family, primary care physician, community psychiatrist, and/or community agencies.

Outpatient service

Our Outpatient Service provides consultation and treatment to older adults living in the community. 

Patients may be referred by family physicians, nurse practitioners, geriatric medicine specialists, community psychiatrists, or other subspecialty psychiatrists, such as those in addictions and concurrent disorders, forensics, and neuropsychiatry within Ottawa. 

We serve older adults with mental illnesses, but people younger than 65 with a diagnosis of Alzheimer disease or frontotemporal dementia may be seen for a one-time consultation. 

Our Outpatient Service works together with Geriatric Psychiatry Community Services of Ottawa to serve older adults with mental health needs. We share a common referral form and triage process.

We do not provide emergency services. If a patient referred to outpatient services needs emergency services, she/he will be referred to an emergency service.

Inpatient services

We have a 43-bed geriatric psychiatry unit at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. This unit serves older adults (65+) with severe, persistent, multiple and/or complex psychiatric illnesses. In this unit, they receive specialized multidisciplinary assessment and treatment, including access to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) services.

Before admission, patients must be evaluated and referred by a geriatric psychiatrist in the community, a long-term care home, or a hospital. Prioritization is a collaborative process based on need, as well as consideration for avoiding emergency room visits where possible.  

The most common conditions we treat are depression, anxiety, and dementia complicated by behavioural and psychological distress. Our patients usually stay 4 to 6 weeks. We do not admit patients for the purpose of long-term care placement.  

Where appropriate, our geriatric mental health outreach, day hospital, and outpatient services facilitate the transition from the inpatient unit and support the continuity of care our patients deserve after their stay.

Day hospital

The Geriatric Psychiatry Day Hospital at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre provides intensive day treatment for older adults with serious mental illness who can live safely in the community.  We support their mental and social wellness by assessing and treating psychiatric illness; functional, cognitive, and physical impairment; and social concerns. 

The team works to improve patients’ quality of life, relationships, and social supports in a collaborative manner. We also liaise with other health care providers involved in the patient’s care.

The Geriatric Psychiatry Day Hospital can accommodate 45 patients. Patients attend twice weekly and participate in therapeutic group programs.  They also receive individual assessments and treatment.  

Patients transition to outpatient psychiatric services and/or the care of their family physicians once they are well and stable. 

Outreach to Long-Term Care

Every month, our clinicians provide consultation at long-term care homes in the Ottawa Champlain region. The consultation team includes a geriatric psychiatrist and geriatric outreach behaviour support nurse, support outreach nurse. They work alongside long-term care staff to provide geriatric psychiatry consultation and follow-up for residents.  They also provided education for long-term care staff and families. The geriatric psychiatry team can also connect long-term care homes with The Royal’s hospital-based services. 

Accessing this service requires consent from a resident’s power of attorney (POA), as well as a referral from the primary care physician in the long-term care home. 

Behaviour support in long-term care

Members of our behaviour support team have received extensive training in managing responsive behaviours.  Responsive behaviour can be described by how a person responds to an unmet need or something important to them and their surrounding environment.  Responsive behaviour is exhibited by using words, actions or gestures and may include restlessness, agitation or socially inappropriate behaviour.

This team provides in-depth assessment and develop care plans based on residents’ needs. 

Our behaviour support teams include: 

  • personal support worker (PSW) champions within long-term care homes
  • registered nurses
  • specialized geriatric psychiatry/behaviour support outreach nurses

  • behaviour therapists
  • geriatric psychiatrists


The behaviour support team also provides education, training, and mentoring to staff, families, and caregivers. 

Rural outreach

Our Rural Outreach Services provide consultation and short-term follow-up support for older adults living with mental illness in the rural areas surrounding Ottawa.  

Teams consist of community mental health nurses and other health care professionals who liaise with primary health care providers, families, and community supports to provide the best care possible.  

A geriatric psychiatrist from The Royal assists each team by assessing patients and providing medical recommendations and support to local health care providers, education for caregivers and families, and connections to services in the community. 

Teams assess patients living in the community, retirement homes, and long-term care facilities. They also provide specialized consultations to local hospitals caring for older adults with mental health concerns. 

Teams also help these facilities access the regional supports at The Royal — most commonly, our specialized Inpatient Services. The service to long-term care homes includes support for local behaviour support teams.  

The program provides services to multiple regions, and in most cases referrals are required from primary care providers. 

Renfrew County – in cooperation with Pembroke Regional Hospital
Call +1 613-732-2811 ext. 6500 

Lanark County Geriatric Psychiatry Behavioural & 
Support Community Team
Call +1 813-282-5699 OR fax +1 613-715-5831 

Leeds-Grenville County – at Brockville Mental Health Centre 
Call +1 613-345-1461 ext. 1700 OR fax +1 613-498-1495

Cornwall/Tri-County – CCH Community Mental Health Services
Call +1 613-361-6363 ext. 8766 OR fax +1 613-361-6364 

Prescott-Russell Geriatric-Psychiatry Service – in cooperation with Hawkesbury Hospital 
Call +1 844-304-1414 OR fax +1 613-632-7450