Natchaug Expands Older Adult Program at Windham Hospital

In May 2016, Natchaug Hospital opened an Older Adult Program at Windham Hospital for men and women ages 55 and older who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse.

The Older Adult Program was the second phase of senior services to open this year at the Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging at Windham Hospital. In January, a resource line became operational, offering consultations, education and referrals for common geriatric issues such as medication support, in-home and assisted living services, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and more. The third phase was the GoodLife Fitness Program, offering on-site rehabilitation and individualized exercise programs geared towards older adults.

The Older Adult Program is designed to address the unique behavioral health needs and challenges faced by older patients in an intensive group therapy environment.

  • “Older adults are in a very different life stage than the traditional adult population, and face very different challenges.”

    - Erin Joudrey, Program Director

“Older adults are in a very different life stage than the traditional adult population, and face very different challenges” said Erin Joudrey, program director. “For instance, they may be transitioning out of work, coping with the loss of a partner, or dealing with changes in their physical or mental health. The Older Adult Program offers programming that’s tailored to address issues that are relevant to them.”

Older Adult Program staff members, from left to right, are Janet Ragno, Lead Primary Therapist; Erin Joudrey, Program Director; Anne Harders, Primary Therapist; and Kami Babbitt, Office Manager.

Treatment is intensive—three to four hours a day, for up to five days a week—with a focus on topics such as stress management, coping with the loss of loved ones, development of age-specific life skills, chronic illness management and medication education.

“Over time, we’ve learned that to effectively treat mental health and substance abuse issues, we have to focus on stages of life and the challenges present at those stages, as opposed to addressing symptoms in general,” said Carrie Pichie, PhD, Natchaug Hospital Director of Ambulatory Services. “We have had success in creating programs specific to young adults from 18- to 25-years-old, and are pleased to now offer this for older adults as well.”

Care in the Older Adult Program is coordinated by a treatment team that consists of psychiatrists and licensed therapists with experience treating a geriatric population. Patients receive a full assessment of needs, group therapy, medication management, case management, and individual and family therapy.

The expansion of senior services and opening of the Older Adult Program is a direct result of Windham Hospital’s Community Health Needs Assessment, which identified senior care, mental health and nutrition as priorities in the region.