How bad would it be if there were a home for elderly individuals suffering mental diseases, living in a home that is based on a mock-1950s village in Switzerland? Critics are claiming Wiedlisbach will be termed “Dementiaville”– aka a village of crazies, but those in favor of the idea, point to a similar establishment that was set up in Holland – Hogewey – a few years ago where residents seemed relaxed and happy.
At the home, residents will be free to move about as they please, without leaving the premises. The carers won’t be dressed in white coats, but be made to look like regular workers such as hairdressers and gardeners. The theory behind it is that since those with dementia often exhibit aggressive behaviors, the trick is to find ways to minimize this and that seems to be what Hogewey has been successful at doing. The reason these models are based on 1950s style houses that look like standard houses with front gardens, is because this gives them a sense of security. While they may not remember what happened yesterday, they do recall their lives in the 1950s and this makes them feel safe. It is known as “traveling back in time.”
Really? That’s all it takes? Just take dementia patients “back in time” and then they can live normal lives and easily reintegrate into society? That seems a bit too simplistic. Indeed, Sonnweid (dementia) home director Michael Schmieder points out the problems with it that – as makes sense – people with dementia simply don’t have a sense of normality. Such a program is trying to fake this for them and he believes it won’t work. And he still wants his patients to be comfortable by offering five star treatment, BUT it’s in the here and now, not more than half a century ago.
Almost 50 more mental health care workers will be hired in Eastern Ontario to help with the more challenging patients suffering from dementia and other such aggressive neurological disorders. Close to $4m is being provided for the overall program that is aiming to ensure better care for such patients, especially for those in nursing homes. In addition, it is hoped that these additional monies will keep more people out of nursing homes (and in their own homes). Further, according to interim chief executive of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, Chantal LeClerc, there are people who are put in hospital just because they are waiting to be placed in long-term-care homes; they shouldn’t really be there, especially as they have difficult behaviors.
Within a few months’ it is hoped that the first of these nurses with special training will be working in the over 60 nursing homes that houses these individuals. Other plans are for a new secure unit to be constructed at one of the nursing homes which will enable short-term stays for those who require intensive medical help before they can go home. It is a great alternative to hospitals.
Last Friday, a new psychiatric program was opened at the Virginia Baptist Hospital, Lynchburg, for seniors, offering inpatient care for 12 patients over 60-years-old undergoing a crisis. This is part of a general urge from healthcare workers to improve the care seniors with mental illnesses receive. It will enable those with issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s to receive specialist care, in a separate unit from the hospital’s other patients.
According to one of the geriatric psychiatrists working on the new project, Dr. Peter Betz, this unit will be providing a way more “homogenous approach,” which is extremely necessary today, given the increase in the geriatric population of Central Virginia by 23 percent over the last decade with an even faster increase with the rate of Alzheimer’s.
<h2>Need for More Psychiatrists</h2>
As well as the fact that the elderly population – and those requiring psychiatric care – is increasing at such great speed, there are only 50 new geriatric psychiatrists trained each year. Throughout America, there are only 12 to 15 programs that regularly produce Board Certified Geriatric Psychiatrists. But given how draining mental illness can be on the entire family (both mentally and financially), more help is needed for these patients (which will ultimately indirectly assist the family too).
According to Indiana University School of Medicine’s clinical associate professor of psychiatry and spokesman for the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. John Wernert, what is unique about this new program is the high level of psychiatric care along with safety and family involvement it has. He added that it is way better for patients experiencing any level of confusion to be kept in a secure environment, not with those patients with different needs.
What is ultimately also very good about the program – for society at large – is that it will provide mental health integration into society in a way in which both the patient and the healthy individual are not uncomfortable.
Plans are well underway for the opening of a new hospital for elderly psychiatric care in the Lufkin, Texas area, later this year. There was a meeting over the summer of the Regional Board of Directors for the Rural East Texas Health Network (RETHN) which took place at the Burke Center’s Mental Health Emergency Center (MHEC) in the area. At the meeting, discussions ensued as to what impact forensic cases have on the amount of beds available at Rusk State Hospital. A review of data on MHEC’s admissions took place as well as elections for new board officers.
The Burke Center runs the RETHN whose mission is to improve behavioral as well as mental health issues across the region. Those working for the RETHN include: judges, law enforcement representatives, local government officials as well as mental health workers.