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Stepping Stones Senior Care opens

AHOSKIE – Stepping Stones Senior Care (SSSC) program celebrated its grand opening Aug. 30 here at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

SSSC, a division of Northside Behavioral Services, is a new, eight-bed inpatient unit located inside the hospital. It is designed, with security and comfort in mind, to provide acute, short-term inpatient behavioral health services for senior adults, ages 65 and over.

The hospital wing is scheduled to receive its first patients by mid-September.

"As people grow older they may experience behavioral health problems associated with losing their life-long mate, changes in their environment or other issues," explained Mark Boyd, Director of Northside Behavioral Health Services.

He continued, "It is often assumed that these symptoms are just a part of ‘getting older' and there is nothing that can be done about it. However, there have been great advances in the area of geriatric psychiatry and, today, we can help older adults and their families by focusing on both the medical and psychosocial aspects of emotional problems."

According to Sue Lassiter, President of Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, there is a tremendous need in the Roanoke-Chowan area to provide an inpatient acute care unit, specifically for older adults. A request was made to the State of North Carolina to convert eight of the hospital's designated beds to serve this population of older adults.

"We are very pleased to announce the opening of the Stepping Stones Senior Care unit at our hospital," Lassiter said. "This is one of the few hospital-based programs devoted exclusively to the behavioral health needs of older adults in northeastern North Carolina. We are especially proud of our new Geriatric Psychiatrist, Dr. Rajeshree Tulloo, who has joined our medical staff to serve as the medical director for this program."

Stepping Stones will provide a secure, therapeutic environment for senior adult patients. The program is modeled very similar to the successful treatment programs provided at Ahoskie's Northside Behavioral Health Services.

SSSC includes psychiatric and physical assessment, 24-hour nursing and medical support, medical management and education, access to physical and nutritional therapy, individualized treatment planning and diagnostic testing.

"In addition to meeting the patient's immediate medical needs, Stepping Stones will offer family education and support, occupational and recreational therapy, individual and group therapy," Boyd said.

Boyd further explained this new venture by adding, "The program is designed to assist older adults to regain as much personal independence as possible. The program will bring some new concepts and alternatives to care for patients in eastern North Carolina."

A treatment team, including psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, recreational therapists and other mental health professionals, will work together to deliver individualized treatment plans that could include occupational and physical therapy as well as nutrition counseling.

Inpatient services for older adults will be provided in a newly renovated department within the hospital, an area equipped with the latest in technology, equipment and hospital beds.

"Patients admitted to Stepping Stones can be assured of a comfortable environment that is immediately accessible to the hospital's medical services if needed," Boyd said. "When a senior adult returns home, they will have an individualized aftercare plan that will make it easy for family members to be involved in on-going treatment and care."

The program also provides support to family members dealing with aging loved ones. Family support groups and involvement of the family in treatment plans are ways family members can benefit from this program.

"We assist family members with the difficulties that occur when a loved one's health is deteriorating," Boyd noted. "We hope to promote better understanding of the emotional and physical problems that our senior adult patients are experiencing. Sometimes receiving the right diagnosis and treatment such as what we offer patients at Stepping Stones can make a tremendous difference in someone's life."

Patients may be referred to SSSC by calling 209-3411.

For more information about the services offered by this new program, contact Beverly Connor, Community Education Manager at Northside Behavioral Health Services, at 209-3052.