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Coming home: Geriatric services bring clarity to care decisions

Mar 11

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Monday, March 11, 2013  RssIcon

MERIDIAN’S GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIC SERVICES program - a collaborative project with IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital - is only a few years old, but already has made a difference.

Its goal is to work with seniors who live with a psychiatric illness – dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression – so that they may return home, whether it is to a private home or an assisted living center. Psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, nurses, therapists, family care givers, all work together toward this goal.

“Geriatric specialty inpatient units are something that over the past 20 years or so have been growing,” says Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Medical Director and Vice President of Medical Affairs.

Why is psychiatric treatment for seniors needed? For one reason, people are living longer, and such problems have more time to develop.

“Seniors who need inpatient psychiatric services have more specialized needs,” Dr. Khan adds. “They often have more medical problems, and, as you know, Meridian believes in whole-person health.”

Services under the program include:

  • Complete medical, psychiatric and social evaluations
  • Group, individual and family therapy
  • Medication evaluation and adjustment
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Skill development
  • 24-hour nursing care within a hospital environment

Participation of the patient’s family is strongly encouraged, and family members receive education regarding the patient’s specific condition and needs.

Kevin Knott, a social worker for Meridian, works on the geriatric psych unit of IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital.

“Part of my work,” Knott says, “is to connect with those entities outside the hospital, which may be assisted living, may be nursing homes, and to work with them and the family and the patient to help move that patient on to the next level of care that they need, that’s going to help them sustain a balance in their life.”

Knott works closely with Dr. Meghana Bhat at the geriatric psychiatric hospital.

“I see a patient, do an initial evaluation, provide further care, what is needed following the evaluation, come up with a treatment plan, do medication management for them while they’re here.”

A WORKING TEAM. Dr. Meghana Bhat works closely with social workers on the geriatric psych unit.

Dr. Bhat says although she has been with Meridian for about a year, she has been impressed with what she has seen.

“The all-around care for the patients while they are here is what is very impressive,” Dr. Bhat says. “As a psychiatrist, I am providing medication management for the patient. We have a very well-trained and caring therapist here, which is a part of the treatment for these patients.

“The combination of therapy plus medication management for these folks does help. That’s one of the positive sides I have seen.”

Those who work with Meridian Health Services on the psychiatric care of seniors are impressed with the people at Meridian.

“I think when Meridian comes into our facility, the professionalism that they bring with them is certainly appreciated on this end,” says Dee Harrold, Executive Director of Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation in Muncie.

“And I think their approach in working with our residents is excellent. They seem to understand how to reach out to those residents, and we’ve seen nothing but benefit come from the association with Meridian.”

“They improve (the patients’) quality of life,” Crystal Mendez, a Kindred social worker, says of the staff at Meridian.

“They make sure they’re comfortable, whether it’s a medication adjustment to their medical health vs. their mental health, they look at everything as a wide perspective and then recommend changes which benefits them in the long run.”

“I will say definitely that one of the things that I really appreciate about Kevin Knott is he truly cares about the whole person,” says Dianne Hovermale, Kindred’s clinical liaison.

Greg Johnson talks with Marjoire.

“Obviously he’s very concerned with their well-being but also very concerned that individuals receive the whole-person care that they need. His heart is truly in serving others.”

Knott says the experience of helping seniors with psychiatric problems is satisfying.

“There is a huge amount of satisfaction, not just for me, but in this field and the people who work in it,” Knott says.

Dr. Bhat agreed. “There are a lot of patients who are very satisfied with the care that we provide here. And some of the families that I have worked with, they have mentioned to me several times, ‘Next time something happens, I want my dad to be here,’ or ‘I want my mom to be here.’ ”

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