Lake Wales Medical Center’s Golden Care Unit is filling a need for behavioral health care specifically aimed at seniors.

When an elderly parent starts hearing music that isn’t there, or seeing objects that aren’t there, it can be perplexing. Reading the signs can be difficult: is it a side effect to a new medication, or something more ominous?
Whether it’s hallucinations, early signs of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, or another behavioral health issue, dealing with it can be especially challenging to a senior’s family members.
They know their conduct isn’t normal for them, and may endanger them, yet putting an older person into a regular mental health facility doesn’t seem appropriate. Waning strength and function may make them particularly vulnerable if they are placed among regular adult behavioral health patients, who may be loud and agitated.
That’s why the Lake Wales Medical Center has opened The Golden Care Unit. It is dedicated to unraveling the mystery behind the problem – and can help put elderly loved ones on the path towards recovery and a more fulfilling life. “We take folks that have chronic illnesses — depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, Alzheimer’s — you can get those illnesses under control and live a very productive, happy life,” says Director Sabrina Long.
An 18-bed, safe and secure in-patient psychiatric facility for those 60 and up, The Golden Care Unit is intended for those experiencing acute behavior health issues. Patients have access to medical specialists for non-psychiatric medical needs.
A specially-trained team of psychiatrists, staff nurses, technicians, professional therapists, counselors and other consultants work together, helping the patient and family with treatment goals. It tries to teach new problem-solving and interpersonal skills that address these later-in-life challenges. The structured, therapeutic program seeks to establish the best environment for recovery, combining individual, group, and family services as the patient’s treatment plan dictates.
The Golden Care Unit works closely with outpatient behavioral health providers, including mental health centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospice providers to ensure patients have adequate care when they are discharged.
“We are a short-term acute care unit,” Long points out. “We get you ready for the next level of care. We try to either get people well enough to return home or get them well enough to graduate to a lower level of care, like an assisted-living facility or rehab.”
The facility, which opened in January 2015, offers a superior option to families with loved ones displaying symptoms of dementia, depression and other mental health issues that could land them in a hospital’s mental health unit. “This is a relatively special population,” Long explains. “You don’t really want to mix them in with the adult population.”
A trying situation may be more frightening to the elderly when forced to be around those with other forms of mental illness.
“The community actually saw a need for this type of service for folks over the age of 60,” she says. “This was a very necessary service for this population. It just treats them as the special people that they are.”
In addition to diagnosis and evaluation, the unit offers 24-hour monitoring and supervision, medication management, individual psychiatric care, group therapy, secondary-health-issue management, patient and family education, and aftercare planning.
The unit is there for family members and their loved one every day, around the clock, offering compassionate care and a helping hand. The Golden Care Unit team can help patients and families understand why this is happening, and decide on the best plan for the future. “I’d like the community to know that we’re here for them,” Long says. “We welcome people just giving us a call if they have questions about what comes next. If we can’t answer those questions, we’ll find someone who can.”
The unit can be reached at (863) 679-6840.
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Lake Wales Medical Center
410 South 11th Street
Lake Wales, FL 33853
(863) 679-6840

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