Health Care

Psych unit designed for geriatrics

Posted 9/14/09

Aiming to meet the needs of older psychiatric patients, many of whom have accompanying medical conditions, St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River has created a new Geriatric Psychiatry Program, the only inpatient program of its kind in that part of Massachusetts.

The 16-bed unit provides comprehensive medical and psychiatric treatment in a secure environment, with private rooms, soothing colors and art work, and features such as a “quiet zone” and a sensory room for music therapy, aromatherapy and more. It was built by Consigli Construction Co. at a cost of $1.5 million, the hospital said.

Psychiatric disorders affect a large number of seniors – one in five, according to the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry. Along with depression and other common conditions, their diagnoses include problems related to progressive physical decline and medical issues.

In Bristol County, 902 patients aged 60 and older were admitted for inpatient psychiatric care in fiscal 2007, according to the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium, including 254 from Fall River. Of the latter, 86 went into hospitals without a psychiatric unit.

In a news release, St. Anne’s said it identified the need for a geriatric psychiatric unit during a recent community needs assessment.

The unit will admit patients whose primary diagnosis is psychiatric, such as anxiety; agitation or significant behavioral disturbances; depression; sudden onset of memory impairment and/or confusion; sleeping and eating disturbances; unrealistic fears; withdrawal; hearing or seeing things not present, or bizarre thoughts. These problems may be accompanied by medical conditions that require coordinated care.

The ward is led by medical director Dr. Edgardo C. Angeles, a board-certified psychiatrist, administrative director Margaret Pfeiffer, a registered nurse and specialist in psychiatry, and Theresa E. Sousa, a clinical social worker and is supported by a multidisciplinary team.

Patients in the ward can receive psychiatric and medical evaluation and management, specialist consultations, medication adjustments, occupational therapy, nutritional consultations, individual and group therapy, patient and family education, and support and after-care planning assistance at discharge.

The typical length of stay is seven to 10 days, hospital officials said. For patients who need substantial follow-up care, the hospital’s Center for Behavioral Medicine offers a partial hospitalization program and an intensive outpatient program, as well as other services.

For more information about the Geriatric Psychiatry Program, call (877) GER-PSYC or visit

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