Geriatric unit serves seniors in need

December 27, 2018

HARLINGEN — Darkness falls on all of us at one time or another.

Some shake off the sadness more easily than others, but in one’s twilight years, the depression can sink even deeper.

That’s why the Geriatric Behavioral Health Unit at Valley Baptist Medical Center has 12 beds available.

The unit was set up about a year ago for senior citizens experiencing mental health issues.

“We offer individualized short-term care in a warm, secure and supportive atmosphere for older adults experiencing psychiatric symptoms which require 24-hour acute inpatient, treatment,” said Melanie Riley, community education manager.

“It’s for people who have problems like depression, memory impairment, destructive or combative behavior, behavioral changes, delusions, hallucinations or paranoia, things of that nature,” she said.

The unit is part of Valley Baptist Medical Center, making it among other geriatric units in the Valley.

Not only can a patient’s psychiatric issues be addressed, medical and other needs can be met as well.

“Our facility is designed to support the population,” said Anthony Manuel, nurse manager.

“It reduces the risk of falls which happen more with this population,” he said. “We have the ability to support other patient needs by utilizing our physical, occupational and speech therapy.”

Manuel, who has a masters of science in nursing, said recent statistics show people in the geriatric population have a higher incidence of depression and anxiety.

“It’s not being addressed because their primary focus has been on medical issues, such as blood pressure and diabetes,” he said. “If it’s not addressed in a quick manner then they can become more severe and have a higher incidence of suicidal attempts. Our goal is to identify these patients in the community and be able to serve them and prevent them from having these episodes.”

Riley pointed out the holidays are especially hard on older people because they may have lost a spouse or other loved one the past year.

Twelve individual rooms are spread out across a spacious facility with broad comfortable hallways.

Nurses, therapists, mental health techs and other medical personnel are on-hand around the clock.

Rooms are specially structured to keep patients from hurting themselves.

Hopefully, through various activities and therapy, the pain can hurt a little less after they leave.


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