Working with behavioral problems among elderly patients can be exhausting. Inexperienced caregivers sometimes respond poorly to such behavior, which can, in some cases, lead to verbal or even physical abuse. Placement of these individuals is another matter all together - because they are so difficult to deal with, it is extremely difficult for discharge planners and social workers to find facilities that are able and willing to provide them the special care that they need. Here are some practical tips we've found make the process of working with seniors with behavioral problems a bit easier.
Behavioral issues don't necessarily mean a patient needs to be moved. Learning to manage a patient's behavioral issues by asking them why they are upset - whether they respond well or poorly - and attempting to understand and empathize with them are critical. Old age can be painful, frustrating, and upsetting, and poor behavior is often an indicator that the patient is confused or scared. Work with them to find out why they're behaving as they are, and use therapy whenever possible.
Make an informed decision. If a patient needs a level of care that can't be provided by your facility, have their health evaluated by a geriatric specialist. It may be that their outbursts are the result of physical or mental issues ranging from physical injury to the onset of dementia. Some of these issues can be treated fairly simply, and may result in a reduction of the patient's behavioral problems.
Online resources are available when additional care is needed. Geriatric behavioral health services is a growing concern, and there are many foundations and organizations that offer a wealth of material to help you find a facility that fits your patient's needs. The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, for example, offers fact sheets, a geriatric psychiatrist search feature, and links to other helpful organizations.
Not all facilities are created equal. That is, the goal should always be to move a patient to a facility that are qualified to meet your patients behavioral needs. Some things to look for specifically include a certified geriatric psychologist, highly trained and experienced technicians and therapists, and nurses with geriatric expertise. At times, long-term care isn't necessary - a qualified staff will be able to stabilize your patient to the point that they are no longer a behavioral problem.
Be persistent. We hear from case workers and discharge planners all the time, and the story is the same - "they're so hard to place!" No doubt, finding a facility that is both able to provide the care your patient needs and is able to take them can be taxing. Develop the pool of resources you can draw from, and work those resources to make meaningful connections. Be patient, but also be persistent. In time, your search will pay off - and you will develop the body of knowledge and resource base to make placement easier the next time.
By keeping these tips in mind, hospital discharge planners can hopefully find the right placements with caregivers who can better manage behavioral concerns.
About the Author
Christy Rakoczy has a JD from UCLA School of Law and an undergraduate degree in English Media and Communications from University of Rochester. Her career background includes teaching at the college level as well as working in the insurance and legal industries. She is currently a full-time writer who specializes in the legal, financial and healthcare sectors. Ms. Rakoczy writes online content as well as textbooks for adult learners.