New local program tailors therapy just for seniorsOct 03, 2022 12:53PM ● By Melinda Mawdsley
Carla Peter has a small sign hanging in her office that encapsulates the passion she has for the work she does and the senior population she walks alongside: “The older the violin, the sweeter the music.”
Peter is the program director and registered nurse for the new Senior Life Solutions program offered through Family Health West. The program aims to fill a needed void in acute mental health care for seniors in Western Colorado, particularly those aged 65 and older.
Depression, anxiety, guilt and worthlessness are feelings people can experience at any age, but aging can magnify those feelings as a lifetime of events and transitions into retirement, loss of loved ones and changes in physical health accumulate. Especially when these events happen in a relatively short period of time.
Grand Valley seniors is a growing demographic with unique mental health needs but it isn’t necessarily the population that seeks out help.
In fact, Peter said, a recent study by Mental Health America estimated that 58 percent of those 65 and older believe it’s “normal” for people to get depressed as they age. According to Mental Health America, Colorado ranks last in the nation for prevalence of adult mental health issues compounded by lack of access to care.
That’s where Senior Life Solutions comes in.
Located at 228 N. Cherry St. in Fruita, the Senior Life Solutions program is housed in a private, renovated trailer with dedicated parking spots to remove any concerns about accessing parking or patient privacy. It’s a comfortable space with private offices and larger rooms for group sessions.
“It’s an extensive outpatient therapy program,” said Peter.
Patients will see Hollie Smith, the program’s licensed personal therapist, for individual sessions at least twice a month. Sessions may include a partner or family, if needed.
Clients will do group therapy upwards of three times a week with other members of the program. Finally, patients will consult with a psychiatrist via telehealth once a month.
“Along with group therapy, we monitor blood pressure, talk about health changes, and assess memory on a regular basis,” Peter said.
Smith said that group sessions are vital.
“There’s always a therapeutic topic for group members to discuss,” said Smith. “They all have the ability to talk about what they experience, and we always have something about how to overcome that topic.”
The idea is for patients to take the interactions they’ve built in the group outside into the community, said Peter.
“The dynamics of the groups are incredible. It helps them build confidence, self-esteem and relationships,” Peter added.
The program has only been up and running for about two months, but Smith has already noticed positive changes in the few patients Senior Life Solutions serves.
The intensive outpatient program is covered by Medicare at 80 percent with most secondary insurance picking up the remaining 20 percent, Peter said.
Patients don’t need a medical referral to inquire about joining the program. Self-referral or referral by a friend or family is all that’s required.
An initial assessment will help tailor the treatment needs for each patient. That initial consultation can be made by calling 970-200-1496 or visiting www.fhw.org/services/senior-life-solutions.