Karen Devereaux Melillo, North Andover resident and UMass Lowell chair of nursing, has co-authored a new, one-of a kind book that combines the study of aging with that of psychiatric mental health.
"Geropsychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, Second Edition" addresses the knowledge and skills necessary in the assessment and nursing care of older adults experiencing common late life mental health and psychiatric problems. The text features experts in gerontological nursing and geropsychiatric fields and provides essential information for advanced practice and professional nurses in addition to graduate and undergraduate nursing students.
While the textbook is intended for classroom use, family members are also benefiting from the information, learning to help care for their loved ones and how to ask good questions of clinicians.
"As a family caregiver, you are the first line of defense, so to speak," Melillo said. "You can help physicians and nurses piece together a diagnosis by sharing all information about what you observe. You could be noticing isolation, sadness, stress, or memory loss. All of this information should be brought to a clinician's attention."
The book was co-authored by Susan Houde, associate dean of UMass Lowell's School of Health and Environment. It includes topics such as sleep disorders, family caregiving, problem behaviors and nursing interventions in dementia care.
As the book points out, the number and proportion of the population age 65 and older will grow rapidly after 2010. And as the nation ages, the growing mental health needs of older adults must be addressed.
"It's a big issue due to the aging Baby Boomer generation and the fact that we are living longer," Melillo said. "Today, 13 percent of the population is 65 years old or older. By 2030, that number will grow to 20 percent. Disability due to mental illness in that age group is expected to become a major public health problem."
The textbook also presents the work of the Geropsychiatric Nursing Collaborative (GPNC) in its entirety. The focus of the GPNC is to improve the education of nurses who care for elders suffering from depression, dementia, and other mental health disorders.
The book states that many people with mental health problems can be treated, but only about one-third receive care. One reason is that both families and clinicians may dismiss symptoms as a normal part of aging. For example, memory loss, difficulty sleeping and lack of appetite could all be signs of depression, and could therefore be treated.
Melillo said the enhancement of geropsychiatric and mental health knowledge like that included in her book will allow people to live healthier and more fulfilling lives.
"I know family members who have bought this book to help them care for loved ones," she said.