Getting gears in motion for mental health in the elderly
MEDICAL ISSUES can be scary at any time or in any form, but mental health issues — especially in an elderly loved one — can be especially so. The doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers at The Golden Care Unit at Lake Wales Medical Center understand how frightening and confusing mental health issues in seniors can be, but they are ready and willing to help.
“Senior patients have special needs,” says director Sabrina Long. She explains that the center is well-equipped to assist when an elderly loved one — considered age 60 or older — starts to exhibit warning signs like disorientation, depression, memory loss, hallucinations, and more. “We are a short-term acute care unit,” Long maintains. “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.”
Prior to The Golden Care Unit’s opening on January 1, 2015, your best option for getting care for your senior loved ones if they started to exhibit signs and symptoms of mental health issues like dementia, depression, and more was to have them admitted to general population mental health units at area hospitals, a move that isn’t always best for the senior in question. “Like adolescents, this is a relatively special population,” Long elaborates. “You don’t really want to mix them in with the adult population.” Generally, the adult patients in a mental health unit can be loud and agitated, which can be a frightening experience for seniors already going through their own upsetting ordeal.
According to Long, the idea for The Golden Care Unit came about from outside the hospital. “The community actually saw a need for this type of service for folks over the age of 60,” she says. “In all of Polk County, there are no specific mental health units for this service line.” Now, families of elderly patients at any stage of a mental illness have somewhere to turn. “This was a very necessary service for this population. It just treats them as the special people that they are,” Long says.
The Golden Care Unit is just as special as the senior mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other elderly loved ones who occupy its rooms. “The unit was designed specifically for the safety of this population,” states Long. She describes how there are no cords or hooks— such as on window blinds or shower curtains— it’s all done with Velcro to reduce the risk for potential hazards. You also won’t find exposed piping in the bathrooms or long cords on the electric beds. From its inception, The Golden Care Unit was designed to provide quality care and a safe and compassionate environment to seniors experiencing mental health issues. “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,” Long shares.
The Golden Care Unit also serves as a resource for Central Florida residents. “I’d like the community to know that we’re here for them,” Long continues, “that 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.” Sharing that the unit’s phone, (863) 679-6840, is staffed and answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Long asserts that the healthcare providers at The Golden Care Unit are happy to help take care of loved ones and provide care so patients and family members can be a family again.
article by ERIKA ALDRICH