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Why mental disorders in the elderly are so difficult to treat

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Geriatric mental disorders present a unique and challenging case for mental health professionals. Yet a place like Blueridge Vista is equipped with all the tools to handle them, including a team of psychiatrists, doctors of internal medicine, mental health technicians, nurses, recreational therapists, social workers, and dietitians. (Blueridge Vista)

PLEASANT RIDGE, Ohio (WKRC) - Behind the doors of Blueridge Vista there are hundreds of patients with a range of psychiatric, addictive, and emotional issues. Yet unless you’ve had first-hand experience with these patients, they’re unlikely to be at the top of your mind when you think of the most needful or under-served sufferers of mental disorders. That’s because Blueridge Vista, located in Pleasant Ridge, specializes in serving adults and seniors.

It’s a unique type of treatment offered here. That is, not many behavioral health facilities focus on a specific subset of patients the way Blueridge Vista does. But they have to, because 15 percent of adults age 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder, and treating them is often far different—and far more complicated—than treating others.

It’s unpredictable.

Sometimes you can see it coming. Perhaps your loved one—the senior—receives a serious medical diagnosis or their spouse passes away. Then you know to look for the signs of depression, and if they appear you know to seek help. But most of the time it doesn’t work that way. Many mental health disorders—from depression to OCD to schizophrenia—can appear without warning late in life. Similarly, known conditions can resurface and suddenly become unstable.

It might be bodily changes.

The aging body presents its own difficulties. Say your loved one has taken a particular medication—an antidepressant—for many years to great effect. Well, because most drugs are designed for the average, healthy, middle-aged person, that antidepressant may abruptly become ineffective as your loved one gets older. Then problems may resurface, and you should seek treatment immediately.

It might be medications interacting.

If you’ve had experience taking care for an elderly loved one, you’ll know they’re often on several different medications. Sometimes those medications are even redundant. Other times they react chemically in ways that could produce the symptoms of mental disorders. Caregivers need to be able to tell if this is the case, and it helps if they specialize in senior care.

It can be misdiagnosed.

Geriatric mental disorders can present with unusual symptoms. These symptoms might include physical maladies such as muscle, joint or ligament pain, cardiovascular problems, or issues with digestion. Often they baffle physicians because they don’t get better with treatment and seem to make other health conditions worse. Such misdiagnoses can result in prolonged and unnecessary suffering.

Medication might not do it.

Sure, the answer might be as simple as your loved one needing an adjusted dosage or a new medication. But that’s not always the only answer, and it’s not always the best one. Changes in routine can make an appreciable difference, as can an in-patient setting with trained caregivers.

The list could go on. Indeed geriatric mental disorders present a unique and challenging case for mental health professionals. Yet a place like Blueridge Vista is equipped with all the tools to handle them, including a team of psychiatrists, doctors of internal medicine, mental health technicians, nurses, recreational therapists, social workers, and dietitians.

It begins with an initial assessment to review medical, emotional, behavioral, social, and nutritional needs. Your loved one’s psychiatric history is also reviewed, including previous treatment and medciations. Then a treatment plan is created, utilizing the most progressive clinical and therapeutic techniques. All the while the patient experience is prioritized, leading to an extended stay that is both productive and enjoyable.

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Blueridge Vista is located at 5500 Verulam Avenue.


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