What is Geropsychiatry?

The Geropsychiatric Center at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center is a psychiatric service designed to meet the specific needs of geriatric patients (60 years and older). The practice of psychiatry is focused on the study and treatment of the human mind and behavior. The Geropsychiatric Center provides expert information and treatment for our patients and their families about the specific problems related to the aging brain and body, along with understanding the social stressors that are unique to the older adult.

What types of patients do we serve?

Our patients must be 60 years or older to participate in our programs. Many patients have not had any prior mental health problems. Their current symptoms are usually a result of factors related to the aging process. These factors may include side effects of medications, changes in brain functioning or the effects of a physical disease or medical condition. Additional factors that may contribute or lead to mental health problems include: unresolved grief, social isolation, a decline in physical health, financial worries, loss of independence and fears regarding future losses.

Most common diagnoses treated are:

Depression – Patients who experience extreme depression experience physical symptoms that include a change in appetite or sleep patterns, weight loss, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and an inability to cope with daily activities. Depression can be life-threatening in an older person.

Anxiety – This is an extreme form of worry that can lead patients to have uncontrollable fears that keep them from living a fulfilling life. Many patients with anxiety experience panic attacks, which may feel to them like a heart attack.

Dementia – This is a condition in which a person has a decline due to physical changes in the brain that cause unpreventable damage to the brain. This usually occurs as a result of the aging process but can also occur because of a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, chronic alcohol use or from an injury to the head. Symptoms can include memory loss (especially recent memory), a reduction or loss of reasoning abilities and declining judgment and disorientation.

Psychosis – A person in this state has thoughts and beliefs that are out of touch with reality. An example is paranoia, which is the feeling that someone or something is out to harm you. People in this state may also experience hallucinations. They think they see or hear things that are not there or that are present but are being misinterpreted.

Who will be providing my care?

Your care will be directed by a psychiatrist, a physician who specializes in management of mental and behavioral symptoms. Your doctor will supervise your care, and order necessary tests and medications. You can expect to see your psychiatrist or his/her covering psychiatrist daily. Your psychiatrist also makes the final decisions about your discharge date.

You will also have a medical doctor who treats your physical needs and illnesses. This physician will see you within the first 24 hours of your stay to perform a physical exam, and see you as needed throughout your stay. Other physicians with specialized training may be asked to assist in your care if your needs indicate it.

Nursing Staff
Our nursing staff is composed of specialty trained registered nurses (RNs) who partner with certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to provide your care. Their role is to ensure that your treatment occurs in a safe and therapeutic environment. They also take an active role in your care by providing emotional support and physical care. The nurses will give you your medications and assess you for any side effects. They also will provide you with information that to help you develop coping skills for better understanding your illness and medications.

Social Workers
Social workers work with you to help you improve your ability to cope with your situation, conduct therapy groups and work as the primary liaison between the program and your family. The social worker has the primary responsibility to set up your discharge plans, along with you and your family, to ensure your continued success after leaving the program.

Occupational Therapists
These therapists provide assessment and treatment in the area of daily living skills. These skills may range from feeding and dressing to money management and cooking. The type of help you receive will be based on your specific needs. They also help you work on your ability to concentrate and complete tasks safely.

Therapeutic Recreation Specialists
The Therapeutic Recreation Department provides education and experiential programs that address your leisure needs. These therapists work to help you achieve and maintain a healthy quality of life while adapting to physical, social, cognitive and environmental changes.

Physical Therapists
Your physician may request an assessment and treatment from the physical therapy department if indicated. These therapists provide treatment for strength, flexibility, range of motion, and balance in helping your ability to walk and move. Their goal is to maximize your ability to move while decreasing pain and your risk of falling.

Speech Pathologists
Your physicians may consult with a speech-language pathologist if there are concerns about your ability to swallow or for certain communication difficulties. If you are having difficulties speaking, these therapists provide education to you and your family on effective ways to communicate.

Dieticians will determine your nutritional needs and diet. If you have questions or concerns about your menu, a representative of the dietary department will discuss this with you. The dietician is also available for nutritional counseling.

Other Professionals
Other professional therapists and counselors who may participate in your care include movement therapists, music therapists, grief counselors and spiritual counselors.