Serving the Acute Mental Health and Emotional Needs of Older Adults
When it comes to seeking mental and emotional care, many older adults don’t have a voice. They suffer in silence, unable to communicate their feelings or anxieties to health care workers and loved ones.
Family members may not understand this. And nursing homes rarely have the time to spend with individual residents. While the highly disturbed or agitated person may be easy to recognize, the one who is quiet and depressed may go unnoticed and untreated.
Studies report as many as four of every 10 seniors with physical illnesses are depressed. It’s not surprising. In addition to multiple medical problems, they face the loss of loved ones (spouse, siblings, close friends, maybe even children) as well as additional losses: their ability to work, to drive, to walk unaided—
in essence their independence.
Today, 35 million Americans are 65 years of age or older, a number that will grow as the baby boomer generation ages. In addition to depression, they typically experience such mental disorders as anxiety, cognitive impairment, mood disorders and behavioral problems associated with memory loss.
Too often, psychiatric illness in older adults is missed, sometimes with tragic results. The rate of suicide among older people is higher than any other age group and twice the national average.
Older people account for only seven percent of all inpatient mental health services, six percent of community-based mental health services, and nine percent of private psychiatric care – despite comprising 13 percent of the population. This is due to a dearth of appropriate health specialists, access barriers, a denial of problems and lack of coordination between mental health and aging networks. The Geriatric Psychiatry Unit at Weiss
This full range of highly specialized geriatric psychiatry services was established to meet the needs of older adults and their families throughout the Chicago area. After all, this is a group comprised of people who have lived active and vital lives, who have built the American dream. They deserve the opportunity to maintain their independence and autonomy as long as possible.
The geriatric psychiatry program provides short-term inpatient treatment to seniors who live at home or in nursing or rehab facilities. A staff of geriatric psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, occupational and physical therapists, and other mental health professionals help patients with a wide range of disorders, such as depression and including those complicated by medical or neurological conditions. The goal is to return patients to their residences within four to eight days.
At Weiss Memorial Hospital we use multiple therapeutic modalities, including individual, group and spiritual therapy. Our professional team may choose to change an individual’s medications or prescribe psychotropic or anti-anxiety drugs. In some cases, an undiscovered medical condition may be identified as the primary trigger for a patient’s psychiatric problem.
Many older adults prove resilient, but require encouragement and validation. Our mission is to provide patients with the necessary support so that they return to their homes at maximum mental and emotional function within days.