Sam Bauman: Mental health forum offered lots of insight |

Sam Bauman: Mental health forum offered lots of insight

Sam Bauman

The Thursday night meeting titled “Mental Health and Public Safety,” sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Forums, drew a good crowd to hear speakers such as Tracey Green, medical director of the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services for Nevada. She outlined how integration of various health workers has helped the state. Joe McEllistrem, a forensic psychologist, spoke on how mentally ill patients are rarely violent. And Judge John Tatro outlined how a recently formed team has helped the courts with the mentally ill. Mary Bryan was the emcee and facilitated the presentations. A lively Q&A session wound up the night at the Plaza Hotel.

On hand were several handouts by the Northern Nevada chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. One offered a free education program for those who have loved ones with mental illnesses. It’s called “Family-to-Family” and offers information about medications, current research on the biology of brain disorders and the most effective treatments. There’s much more in the educational seven-week course. It runs from 6-8:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays from June 17 through Aug. 2 at 177 Coventry Drive. Registration is required; call 775-420-5592.

Also offered by the same organization is Family Support Group & Individuals Living with Mental Illness Support Group. This runs along with the “Family” sessions and will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month except June 18, July 2 and July 16. Call 775-225-1952 for information. First-timers should call to register and confirm dates.

reading of note

It’s a strange place to send seniors for information about dementia and more comfortable living, but the May 20 issue of The New Yorker has a couple of stories worth senior caregivers’ time. And treadmill users’ time.

One article is pretty simple, all about adding a desk to a treadmill. That seems to be very popular these days, and manufacturers are producing desks that fit right on the front of the treadmill.

According to New Yorker author Susan Orlan, the desks provide treadmill users ways to get work done while exercising; laptops fit well and it’s apparently easy to read. Of course, one doesn’t “walk” at 3 mph; that would be too distracting. But a more leisurely pace works well with the desk. It’s not cheap, but for those who are short on time it might be worthwhile. Also in the article is information about how just plain sitting can hurt the body. A noted authority suggests that too much time sitting can be bad for the back and suggests standing up to read. Don’t know how sitting hurts when it relieves back pain, but I’ll try standing up while reading a book, provided it’s not something like Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

The other article might be important to those who are caregivers, as it visits the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix. This nursing facility practices care in a different way from most such dementia-treatment centers. It is structured differently, doing away with rigid schedules (meals are served 24 hours a day along with three regular sittings). Sympathy and communication are keys to Beatitudes’ system. Less medication, more simple talking and holding.

“When you have dementia, we don’t change the way you think, but we can change the way you feel,” says one of Beatitudes’ adherents. Nursing homes are the final step in the progress of dementia and in the past they have largely places of confinement. Beatitudes seeks to make these places a more comfortable way stop in life.

The system used at Beatitudes is worth examining if you are a caregiver or expect to become one. It’s a different approach to living with dementia, one that emphasizes such as pleasure for patients (such a cookies and ice cream even for diabetics) rather than warehousing. Well worth a read.

Sam Bauman writes for the Nevada Appeal about issues affecting seniors.