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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Summit calls attention to increasing abandonment of elderly in hospitals

The 2023 Mental Health Summit spotlighted the rising rates of abandonment of elderly patients in hospitals and the lack of care centers for them.

By The Star Staff

With the participation of most mental health hospitals, general hospitals, and institutions related to the health industry, the Puerto Rico Hospital Association held the “2023 Mental Health Summit,” an event that spotlighted the theme of the abandonment of elderly patients in hospitals and the lack of care centers for them.

Among the many in attendance at the meeting was prominent psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Fisher, key developer of the “Emotional CPR” method, who offered alternatives for those who wish to help a person with mental health problems.

“Executives of general and mental health hospitals were able to take the first steps to agree on the problem of abandoned patients in hospital institutions, many of them elderly and patients admitted involuntarily [by court order],” said Marta Rivera Plaza, president of the Hospital Association’s Mental Health Committee and CEO of the San Juan Capestrano Hospital System. “This summit offered new alternatives for collaboration and exposure of the issue of abandoned patients and those not claimed by their families.”

Rivera Plaza added that “the participation of the world-renowned Dr. Daniel Fisher at the summit unleashed great enthusiasm since this doctor is one of the developers of the ‘Emotional CPR’ method, a public health educational program that trains people to assist others who are going through a mental or emotional crisis.”

She said the professional meeting was “aimed at training attendees with mental health strategies to help women in perinatal and postpartum stages.”

“The issue of managing the mental health of the workforce, crises at work and even dealing with legal situations was discussed extensively,” Rivera Plaza said.

It was also agreed to follow up on all the issues discussed at the summit so that the effort achieved has an impact on hospital institutions, workplaces and the population, especially those that are linked to the treatment and education of the issue of mental health.

“It is important to emphasize that the central theme of the summit was the serious problem that is being created with demographic ancestry and tenure in the elderly population,” said Pedro González, executive vice president of the Hospital Association. “The country, its institutions, whether government, private companies and health organizations, must prepare to face the increase in the number of older adults, which is increasing every day. This is something that we have to discuss and look for alternatives since every day the number of elderly patients who are abandoned or unclaimed in our hospital institutions is increasing.”

“In the same way,” he continued, “we must all cooperate so that more options, homes or institutions are achieved to place older people who need medical care. Many times hospitals delay the discharge order of an older adult patient because they do not have an alternative to place that person who due to their health condition needs special care.”

“In that aspect, the places for this type of care are limited; there are not many options and that worries the professionals who work in hospitals,” González said. “Our institutions are not homes for the elderly; however, we cannot throw these people out on the street who are not claimed by their families or guardians.”

The real need to address the mental wellness of patient care professionals was also a topic of special concern at the summit.

“It is important to provide support in the area of mental health so that these caregivers can offer their best abilities in the care of a patient,” González said. “Especially in the care of elderly patients, coordinated actions are required, a public policy strategy that supports all components joining forces to train caregivers on their role, since an accelerated increase in the number of people who will be part of the elderly population is on the horizon. Centers that offer health care and help must immediately address the issue of mental health of patient caregivers, as it is a very stressed, intense and exhausting field for those responsible for the care of an elderly person.”

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