Many people go through periods of having the “blues” in life, particularly as we get older. However, you may not realize that some of these “normal signs of aging”, such as sadness, mood swings and loss of interest in regular activities, may actually be symptoms of a mental illness which can be diagnosed, treated and alleviated.
That’s where Baylor’s Behavioral Health Senior Program comes in. It helps older adults and their families to better address these needs and move forward in recovery.
Since admitting its first patient Jan. 1, 2013, the 10-bed Geriatric Psychiatry Inpatient Program at Baylor Medical Center at Garland has been treating patients aged 65 and older who are experiencing various mental health crises. Baylor Medical Center at Irving opened a similar program in June.
What’s the difference between common signs of aging and a mental health crisis? Radha Kambhampati, M.D., MPH, medical director of the program, explains in this video:
DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR OLDER ADULTS
“Baylor is well-positioned to take care of this age group when they experience psychiatric episodes,” explains Dr. Kambhampati. “There are very few facilities that are able to treat psychiatric patients with associated medical problems such as you find in this patient population.”
Patients who are admitted to the unit have a psychiatric diagnosis as their primary disorder. Severe depression is a common diagnosis, but memory problems, panic attacks, anxiety disorders and psychosis are not uncommon. The psychiatric condition may be totally unrelated to the medical issues, although he says there often is an association.
“For example, depression is not uncommon in patients with chronic medical illnesses like Parkinson’s disease,” Dr. Kambhampati says.
“In severe cases, these patients experience hopelessness, are unable to care for themselves and may even become suicidal.”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The center provides these older adults short-term (7–14 days) inpatient services, working in tandem with Baylor Garland hospital services to ensure both mental and physical health needs are addressed simultaneously and cohesively.
The program’s focus is recovery and encourages individuals to reconnect with their hopes and personal motivations. The advanced psychiatric and medical care offered is based on a combination of individual, group and family therapy, including occupational therapy and education.
The 10-bed acute inpatient psychiatric unit is located on the first floor of Baylor Garland. Patients receive psychiatric care from an experienced interdisciplinary team of medical and mental health professionals.
The unit admits individuals who:
- Are at least 65 years old
- Have a primary psychiatric illness
- Are experiencing a mental health crisis
- Are medically stable
- Are able to participate in a structured group program
LOOK FOR THE SIGNS
Getting older comes with some emotional challenges, but there’s a difference between feeling down on occasion and depression. Older adults who are struggling with depression often don’t know how to ask for help and may not be comfortable expressing how they’re feeling. Keep an eye out for these signs:
- Persistent sadness. This may include crying spells, avoiding social interactions and general malaise.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. Missing regularly scheduled events or failing to complete simple household chores could signal a problem.
- Lack of appetite. Older adults tend to eat less due to a slower metabolism, but a noticeable decrease in appetite or weight loss could be a sign of depression.
- Sleeping more or less than usual. A significant change either way could be a sign something’s wrong.
- Irritability. Having difficulty navigating social interactions or becoming easily upset or angered is also a sign of depression.
About the author
Jennifer is a public relations professional who assists the Baylor Scott & White Health team on numerous projects. Born in Tennessee, she came to the “Big D” by way of SMU. Prior to this gig, she was the associate producer of an award-winning syndicated medical news segment.