A mental health crisis can be exacerbated by the challenges of aging. McKee Medical Center in Loveland plans to address this with a new unit specifically for seniors with behavioral health care needs.
The inpatient unit is for short-term, acute care and will serve people aged 55 and older.
Loveland has a lack of psychiatric inpatient beds, said Shelly Cox, behavioral health services director. Seniors will often travel to Denver or Fort Morgan to receive medical care.
"It's so much better for them if they get to stay in this community where their family's available to help with the treatment planning, to help with the discharge planning, to visit," Cox said. "So, in that way, we wanted to serve our community and felt like it was incumbent upon us to do that."
The 17-bed unit will have private and semi-private rooms, as well as communal spaces for dining, activities and group therapy. The space, designed by architectural firm Boulder Associates, accommodates both the mental health and aging needs of this population. Doors are wide enough to fit wheelchairs and the bright color scheme was chosen for the aging eye.
The unit acts like a small neighborhood, said Jessica Claflin, project manager and architect at Boulder Associates. A patient's room is the home, the extra wide corridor, with benches, is the front porch and the communal spaces are downtown.
"I think with behavioral health there's such a sense of loss of control when you're in this environment, that that helps the patients gain a sense of control over their environment," Claflin said.
Seniors have unique stressors, said Peter Snyder, director of senior adult behavioral services. They experience significant life changes, like the loss of a spouse or other family members, that can trigger mental illness. Sometimes, he said, it's hard for seniors to admit they have a psychiatric problem and seek treatment.
"I'm hoping that we've helped collectively as a society break down some of those stigmas," Snyder said. "And make it more acceptable that people say, 'Yes, I have depression. It is a treatable illness. I'm going to reach out and get help.'"