Elderly benefit from outpatient interventions

Published 12:56 pm Monday, April 18, 2011

By Melissa Couch

For the Times

Social relationships play a vital role in protecting and improving mental health and building resiliency. Holding meaningful conversation, sharing, and being connected with others gives life a purpose. To paraphrase H.B. Bohn, “sharing with friends helps multiply the joys and divide the sorrows.” This is true for individuals of all ages.

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It seems that as we age our opportunities to spend time among peers decrease. As we have advanced in technology we have lost some of the connectedness offered by communities and large families. We now have smaller families that are often separated by miles as children move away in pursuit of their careers. Where communities once congregated and communed, we now go days and weeks without seeing or talking to our neighbors. Likewise, the visits and conversations among family members seem to be dwindling in numbers. Rather than gathering simply to visit, it appears that a great deal of the time spent among peers and family is in relation to grief issues such as death and illness. It is important that we spend time among peers in an uplifting and supportive environment. In the “Executive Summary of Mental Health: A Report from the Surgeon General” it is pointed out that continued intellectual, social, and physical activity throughout the life cycle are important for the maintenance of mental health in late life. An appropriate outpatient therapy group can assist in providing a positive venue for healthy peer interaction. Loneliness and isolation impact physical health as well as emotional well being. Research indicates that reducing loneliness and social isolation among older adults may reduce illness. Loneliness and social isolation have consistently been linked to poor health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease in research. A meeting of peers can often turns into a “woe is me” competition where individuals focus solely on the negatives rather than addressing the negative and moving toward potential resolutions. This isn’t the type of socialization that positively impacts our well being and can actually lead to increased isolation and negative outcomes. Unlike an informal get together that can take a turn for the negative, group therapy offered at a qualified mental health center is facilitated by a qualified mental health professional that has experience in addressing stressful issues in a therapeutic and healthy manner. With therapeutic interventions and assistance in looking at things through a heathier prospective, many individual can work though life’s stressors in a productive manner.

According to recent research, older adults with positive perceptions of aging have better functional health over time than those with negative self-perceptions of aging. Outpatient therapy facilitated by an experienced mental health professional can be instrumental in assisting with positive perceptions.

Outpatient therapy programs like the one offered by Tombigbee Geriatric Behavioral Health are instrumental in assisting the elderly with addressing these issues as is evidenced by patient quotes such as “If it wasn’t for the group I probably would have taken my life,” expressed by a recent patient. The outpatient clinic therapy groups are led by Mary Shakes, LCSW. Shakes has worked in the mental health field for twenty years, serving as the outpatient coordinator for Tombigbee Geriatric Behavioral Health since 2006 and conducting daily group therapy since that time.

Tombigbee Geriatric Behavioral Health offers free and confidential assessments and consultations. If you believe you or a loved one could benefit from our services then please phone the outpatient unit at 334-287-2805 or the inpatient unit at 334-287-2806.