Page 17 - Scene Magazine 45-03 March 2020
P. 17

  For Your Health
Fund Development Coordinator, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E.
   It’s no secret. The population of older adults in our state and throughout the nation is growing faster than ever before which creates a number of issues in the area of geriatric care. Not only does
to integrate the medical health with the behavioral health of our participants
to become as integrated as possible. We would like to be able to identify any behavioral health issues early on by developing an assessment process upon enrollment either for a reduction in their anti-psychotic medication, if possible, or to better determine which participants need to be more ‘high- touch’ so we can adapt our services accordingly.”
any good evidence indicating this combination was helpful, we were able to reduce her medications and she is doing well. One of the things I greatly appreciate about the PACE program is that even if one of our participants sees a specialist and receives a prescription outside of our internal primary care physicians, the new medication will
be reviewed by our healthcare team
to evaluate its effectiveness in light of that person’s entire plan of care. We have the latitude to advocate for the participants wellbeing based on all the factors related to their healthcare.”
our rapidly growing senior population need specialized care for the physical conditions related to aging, but there is also an equally expanding need to care for the behavioral health of this same population. Behavioral health focuses on a person’s emotions, behaviors
According to Woodruff, there are
a lot of undiagnosed mental illnesses
in this age group in general. “It is our job to make sure we are recognizing these issues early so we can implement the appropriate interventions before
it worsens.” She continued, “Many seniors suffer from adjustment disorder because they are at the stage in life where they are losing people who were once close to them. They are also losing their independence and they often lack a sense of purpose. Adjustment disorder is often accompanied by depression and anxiety, so it becomes a combination diagnosis. Sometimes we can treat
that with therapy without having to introduce any additional medications, which is our preference.”
and biology relating to their mental wellbeing, their ability to function in everyday life, and their concept of self. A person struggling with behavioral health may face stress, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, addiction, mood disorders, or other psychological concerns.
Woodruff recalled, “In the hospital setting I worked with patients who
were 65 years of age or older and were primarily dementia diagnosis patients. It’s interesting, because there I didn’t have the opportunity to do too many Gradual Dose Reductions (GDR’s) of medications. I was typically putting people on these medications inside the hospital setting. However, now that I am working in the PACE program, I have the opportunity to do GDR’s much more often and help people get off some of these medications that may not serve them well over an extended period of time. There is a place for medication, but it must be managed long-term
Dementia is also a behavioral
health concern and is a common diagnosis among the senior population. A significant percentage of older
adults are dealing with some form of this condition which can be broken down into various types including Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies, frontotemporal dementia, Huntington’s disease, and others. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting roughly 190,000 Michigan adults 65 and older.
She added, “Our goal is to reduce the anti-psychotics for individuals with dementia because when you are using anti-psychotics in that population there is an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. This age group is already more vulnerable to these conditions or they may have already experienced them. So, we have to be very careful how we use these drugs. Whenever possible, we use medications that don’t have the black box warning, but sometimes it’s necessary when other alternatives are not effective. These decisions are never made in a vacuum and always include the participant and/or their caregiver/ guardian if possible.”
to maximize the individual’s overall wellbeing. I have seen a lot of success with GDR’s here and I believe it has a lot to do with the entire PACE program our participants experience. It is very high-touch here. People are getting the social interaction they were missing before they became a PACE participant. GDR’s would not be as successful if a person doesn’t have the elements they receive through the PACE program. Through PACE we are touching their lives in multiple ways in the center as well as in their home. This is truly a model of geriatric care like no other.”
Recognizing this growing healthcare need, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. launched a Behavioral Health initiative in 2019, led by Lisa Woodruff, a Nurse Practitioner with specialized training
in geriatric behavioral health, to better help participants with behavioral health needs. An internal Behavioral Health Task Force has also been established to solidify the overall strategy and policies that will make the Behavioral Health Team as effective and efficient as possible.
More specifically, the Task Force
is responsible for creating a dynamic platform on which the behavioral health services will be established going forward. Woodruff said, “It is our goal
“We had one new participant who came to us with three anti-psychotic medications, which basically worked in the same way. Since there wasn’t
For additional information
about Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. you may call (269) 441-9319, visit, or text “PACE” to 51555.
Behavioral Health – A Growing Concern

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