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Lifestyle

December 19, 2010

North Andover resident co-authors book on seniors and mental health

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."

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