By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The idea behind Ottumwa Regional Health Center’s new care center follows one of the basic tenets of modern medicine: early intervention provides better results.
The Senior Behavioral Care Center is scheduled to open next May. Construction is visible now, though it will be a while before CEO Phil Noel is prepared to unveil the addition. It does raise a very fundamental question, though.
What is a senior behavioral care center?
“The unit being developed treats patients generally 55 years of age or older. It’s basically for when you begin to see changes to behavior or activities they’re involved in,” Noel said.
People change as they age. That’s a given. But some changes can be signs of underlying concerns that go beyond normal aches, pains or the occasional “senior moment.” When that’s the case, therapies have the best chance of helping improve a person’s quality of life when they start early.
That in itself can be a challenge. The people most likely to see early changes, family and friends, are also those most likely to write off a lapse out of concern for the senior’s feelings. But there’s a big difference between forgetting where you put the car keys and forgetting where you live, or cutting back on high-impact exercise and cutting off interactions with people.
The center will bring together experts in both physical and mental care for seniors. Noel said the hospital is working on hiring those positions now. Once they’re in place, public education will be a focus.
What Noel sees the center addressing are sudden changes in behavior in cases where a senior’s work suddenly suffers or personal care lapses for no readily identifiable cause.
“If you start to see changes in those, it may be something your health care provider should know,” he said. “That’s where the education to providers and the community comes in.”
The center will initially have 14 beds. Noel thinks that will be adequate, but expansion is possible if it proves to be needed. It will be located on the third floor of the hospital’s west wing.