Putting the focus on seniors and mental health

Dr. Soham Rej, a Psychiatrist at the Jewish General Hospital, organized the Geriatric Psychiatry Academic Day. It focused on applying technology in the care of geriatric patients.
Dr. Soham Rej, a Psychiatrist at the Jewish General Hospital, organized the Geriatric Psychiatry Academic Day. It focused on applying technology in the care of geriatric patients.

Geriatric Psychiatry Academic Day gives health professionals the opportunity to learn about mental health issues specific to older patients

 A conference devoted to mental health and older age brought together experts at the Jewish General Hospital. It was aimed at raising awareness and sharing expertise on a salient topic: how to apply technology in the care of geriatric patients.

Organized by Dr. Soham Rej, a Psychiatrist at the JGH, the Geriatric Psychiatry Academic Day has drawn approximately 100 health care professionals since it was first held three years ago.

“By inviting people to come together, we can share knowledge and experiences, and highlight cutting-edge practices to care for our patients,” says Dr. Rej, a leader in geriatric psychiatry within the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.

Dr. Rej says more practitioners are becoming interested in geriatric mental health, and our CIUSSS is the “perfect arena” because it serves one of the highest concentrations of older adults in Canada.

“We’ve already seen several new collaborations and projects in our CIUSSS to improve patient care,” he says. These include clinical trials of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and health education, as well as clinical programs teaching life skills, exercise, and tai chi.

There are also plans for novel community mental health outreach programs for vulnerable seniors, spearheaded by JGH Occupational Therapist Allana Goodman and the Cummings Centre’s Rosanna Magnone

Geriatric psychiatry is being increasingly seen as a sub-genre within mental health, Dr. Rej says.

“Therapies that are effective on younger people may not have the same impact on geriatric patients,” Dr. Rej says, citing factors such as combinations of medications, frailty, dementia, as well as social issues such as the loss of long-standing support networks through death or incapacity.

“All of these factors contribute to the complexity of devising treatment plans,” says Dr. Rej, an investigator at the Lady Davis Institute and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University.

This year’s colloquium focused on technology in geriatric health. “Technology holds great promise,” Dr. Rej says, “but psychiatry also requires a very human touch. So, we’re searching for that optimum balance.”

Dr. Rej initiated an annual Geriatric Psychiatry Academic Day with the encouragement of Dr. Karl Looper, Chief of Psychiatry at the JGH and Co-Director of the Mental Health Program for our CIUSSS; and Dr. Marilyn Segal, JGH Geriatric Psychiatry Division Head.

Based on his own practice and research in the field, Dr. Rej believes that the more awareness that is raised within the health care system, the better the outcomes for patients. To this end, he will be co-hosting the upcoming annual scientific meeting of the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry in Montreal in October.

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