Jewish Senior Living magazine   2017/2018


The Jewish Home’s acute geriatric psychiatry hospital is committed to providing outstanding care and quality services to people 55 years of age and older who require psychiatric support and services for stabilization. Specializing in assisting geriatric patients having an acute mental health event, this 12-bed hospital serves clients from all over Northern California, but predominately the greater Bay Area.

April Ellis, acute psychiatry’s Social Services director, brings Alisa Berkowitz, interim program director, and Robert McCloskey, nursing unit manager, up to date on a patient’s needs.

A dedicated interdisciplinary team of professionals is involved in the healing process of each patient. Psychiatrists, psychologists, internists, nurses, and social workers, as well as recreation, physical, occupational and speech therapists play an integral part in taking patients from a point of acute illness to wellness.

The process begins when a patient is referred to the psych hospital from an outside agency. The referral is initially reviewed by nursing unit manager Robert McCloskey, whose clinical knowledge ensures that the potential patient is medically appropriate and can be well-managed in this setting, before he passes the referral to one of the hospital’s psychiatrists for final approval.

“We’re a small unit and are in constant contact with one other,” says Robert. In fact, close collaboration between all members of the interdisciplinary team is fundamental in meeting the individualized needs of patients and respecting preferences of care. “If there’s a piece of furniture in the room that the patient doesn’t like, we’ll remove it,” Robert explains. “Or if a patient doesn’t want to get up at 7 a.m. to take his medication, we’ll change the schedule.”

When it is time to begin discussing patients’ discharge needs and concerns, Robert interfaces with the hospital’s Social Services department. Directed by April Ellis, this department has an important role in the success of patients’ treatment.

“Under the guidance of our medical director, our philosophy is to truly help people and get them well,” states April, whose team works hand in glove with patients from the time they walk through the hospital’s door until – and at times even after – they are discharged. “We’re gratified to have an incredible success rate, with very few returning patients. This outcome is due not only to effective treatments in our hospital, but to the plans that are put in place for the patient at discharge.”

Social Services’ responsibilities extend beyond the patient, connecting with the patient’s family and friends, case managers, and outpatient medical providers. The team gathers the patient’s past hospitalization records, medical data and collateral, so that the interdisciplinary group has the most accurate information. Social workers oversee the scheduling and facilitating of patient/family meetings, the making of medical appointments, referrals to outpatient treatment, the getting of caregivers in the home, transportation management, and reporting to agencies that can help oversee the safety and care of the patient once discharged. Making sure that everything is set up and explained prior to the patient leaving the hospital advances a smooth transition, says April. Regular interdisciplinary team meetings, staff collaboration, and treatment planning promote the coalescence of these objectives.

Monitoring the legal status of the psychiatry hospital’s involuntary patients and being a part of court hearings that take place on the unit twice a week is yet another vital role played by the Social Services team. The social workers are often called upon to explain legal hold information to the patient. April coordinates the documentation for these holds, and works closely with the Public Guardian offices of counties all over Northern California on temporary conservatorships.

The social work team provides patients with supportive counseling as well as group treatments to promote improved coping, an understanding of mental health and their stay in the hospital, and discharge planning. These group sessions round out a full day of treatment programs conducted by other therapy staff to achieve healing and wellness.

“The hospital takes pride in providing a safe, nurturing, and competent place to serve older people in crisis,” says April. “We’re intent on helping people transition through mental illness and return to a place of hope.”

April Ellis and Robert McCloskey go through a patient’s individualized discharge plan.

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