Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Texas hospital educates about mental illness in senior citizens

From The News Herald in Kilgore, Texas:

A crackerjack squad of professional peacemakers descended on Kilgore Oct. 14 for a rigorous boot camp and know-thy-enemy training session.

Their target: mental illness.

Allegiance Specialty Hospital’s Fourth Mental Health Summit welcomed more than 125 caregivers from a 32-county region to First Baptist Church for indepth discussion and continuing education on assessing and treating older adults with mental illness.

The ‘A-Team’ included nurses, social workers, licensed professional counselors and nursing home and assisted living administrators as well as 20 vendors and healthcare agencies.

“Our goal is to help them improve the quality of life that we see in our senior adults,” said Tina Johnson, director of community education.

A range of ‘Mission’ topics included dementia, therapeutic milieu, diagnosis, depression and suicide in the elderly.

“Senior adults over 65 are in the highest risk category for suicide in the nation. A lot of people don’t realize that,” Johnson said.

“It’s a difficult thing for our senior adults to watch everybody that they ever knew pass and to deal with their declining health and their declining mental capacity.

“Depression and the things that seniors face don’t have to be part of the aging process – there is treatment and we want them to know there is treatment,” she said.

Melissa Lehman of Allegiance led the group in ‘MISSION: Differentiate the Diagnosis.’

Dementia can be a complex and difficult diagnosis, particularly among the elderly, Lehman said, teaching the group a mnemonic device to determine the cause of a patient’s condition and emphasizing the caregiver’s role as advocate.

“We’ve got to be there for the patient,” Lehman said. “We’ve got to protect their rights. Sometimes that’s as simple as ‘Do you want to wear a red shirt or a blue shirt.’”

Four years separated Allegiance’s third summit and Thursday’s A-Team summit, but Johnson said it will become an annual event. Attendees receive multiple continuing education units for their license through Allegiance and Good Shepherd Medical Center, she explained, valuable for them and a boon to their communities.

Allegiance Specialty Hospital wants to be known as a great resource for education as well as for the services it provides, she said.

“We want to be able to train people how to assess, treat and manage behaviors with mental illness in older adults. It’s something that we’re very passionate about,” Johnson said.

“It’s very beneficial to us to be able to educate and help these professionals that work with the senior population.”