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Aspirus Ironwood Hospital introduces program focused on mental health of seniors


As people get older, our bodies and our health needs change.

For some older adults, this can mean more body aches and pains or a higher risk for heart disease or cancer.

It can also mean new or different mental health issues.

Losing your significant other, adjusting to new health conditions, changes to your family like people moving further away, or even moving out of your home that you’ve lived in for a long time.

These are things that can trigger anxiety, depression, or other behavioral health issues in senior citizens.

It’s these health issues a new Geriatric Behavioral Health Program at Aspirus Ironwood Hospital is looking to treat.

“It’s a group model of care where there’s support of both group therapy and some individual work. The model is really addressed to look at anxiety and mood and looking at specifically the coping skills to deal with that,” program therapist Amy Saarnio-Wyka.

She said while most of what they do focuses on a person’s thoughts and feelings and finding healthy ways to relax, be mindful, and problem solve, there’s also staff that focuses on physical health.

“It’s really an integrated care approach,” said Saarnio-Wyka.

Travis Hollenbeck is the Program Manager. He said this program is a first for Aspirus, but they’ve been working with another company that specializes in this type of work to develop this program over the last year.

Hollenbeck said the need for this program stemmed from the other work Aspirus does to help keep seniors in their home.

“One of the areas that we’re lacking is in the mental health arena. Really helping people stay in their homes but helping them to be more productive and continuing to have a good quality of life as their staying home,” he said.

“I think the Aspirus Network really wants to support all of us across our lifespan. The push for this has just been in recognizing, not just for older adults, but how important our emotional health is,” said Saarnio-Wyka.

Seniors or their families can call 906-932-6190 to set up a free consultation to see if the program would be a good fit for them. Patients with Medicare Part B may be eligible to participate in the Geriatric Behavioral Health Program if they meet the medical necessity requirements.

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