MUMC Opens Area’s Only Emotional Support Program for Older Adults

(February 6, 2008) – Answering the area’s growing need for comprehensive mental health services for aging residents, Memorial University Medical Center (MUMC) is pleased to announce the opening of SeniorCare, a mental health program dedicated to the treatment of older adults. The program strives to help seniors cope with mental health issues and return to optimal levels of functioning. This is the only program of its kind in the region.

“As our society ages, it is imperative that the special needs of this growing part of our population be met,” said Ramon Meguiar, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer at MUMC. “It is often assumed that changes in behavior are ‘just old age’ and are inevitable. But medical advances have shown us that many mental health problems in the elderly can be treated. SeniorCare focuses on the psychosocial aspects of emotional problems that are unique to older adults. The program also works closely with their families and caregivers.”

SeniorCare includes an acute, short-term program for patients age 65 and older in need of a secure, therapeutic environment 24 hours a day. Upon admission to the SeniorCare program, each patient receives a comprehensive medical and psychiatric assessment. The treatment team, which includes psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, therapists, and other mental health professionals, works to develop an individualized treatment plan. SeniorCare is located within Memorial University Medical Center to ensure immediate access to other hospital programs, if needed.

William Ellien, M.D., medical director at the Center for Behavioral Medicine at Memorial University Medical Center, oversees the new program. According to Ellien, the following warnings signs in older adults may indicate that treatment is needed:

• Increased confusion
• Depression
• Frequent mood swings
• Increased withdrawal from others
• Increased anxiety
• Increased physical complaints
• Decreased satisfaction with living

“It’s important that we all recognize the warning signs that may appear in the older adults that are close to us—whether family or friend,” said Ellien. “Receiving the right diagnosis and treatment could make a tremendous difference in someone’s quality of life.”

Memorial University Medical Center is a two-state healthcare organization serving a 35-county area in southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina. The system includes its flagship hospital, a 530-bed tertiary medical center; Memorial primary and specialty care physician networks; a major medical education program; business and industry services; and NurseOne, a 24-hour call center. Memorial University Medical Center has been named a Distinguished Hospital by J.D. Power and Associates four years in a row for providing an outstanding patient experience.