Giving Voice – A Mental Health Summit Summary

Did you know that placing a black mat on the floor in front of a door may keep an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient from wandering through that door? Some patients due to changes in the brain caused by illness are actually seeing the mat as a hole.

This and other helpful tips and information were offered by speakers at the second annual “Giving Voice” Mental Health Summit. It as co-sponsored by North Metro Medical Center and The Elder Law Practice of Douglas R. Jones and Cynthia Orlicek Jones.

The event took place on Thursday, April 16 at the Jacksonville Community Center. Exhibitors were on display and several door prizes were given. Providing six hours CEU to the licensed clinicians and professionals in attendance.

door prizes







Healthcare Decisions – In the Spotlight

As the summit took place on “National Healthcare Decisions Day,” attorney Cynthia Orlicek Jones spoke to the importance of creating a life care plan. As well as the importance of naming agents in various capacities who can make decisions for you. That is in the event you become incapacitated . Thus, unable to make decisions for yourself. These agents will follow your directions as laid out in your plan.

“You should make decisions for yourself for as long as possible,” she stated. But in the event of your own incapacity, your pre-selected agents can carry out your wishes and ensure the quality of life you’ve envisioned.

Key Documents

The four key documents needed when planning for incapacity and asset protections are:

1. Healthcare power of attorney (POA)
2. Private Living Will
3. HIPAA Authorization
4. Property POA

Attorney Doug Jones briefly discussed these four documents. Along with some basics of Medicaid long-term care qualification.

“While Medicaid has become the long-term care insurance of the middle class,” he explained. Eligibility to receive benefits requires individuals to pass strict tests regarding income and assets.

The rules are extremely complicated and confusing. Without planning or assistance from qualified professionals. We then see far too many families spend more than they should. As a result, they are jeopardizing their own security.”









Prevalent Issues with Dementia

Tips for “Management of Behavioral Issues in Patients with Dementia,” such as the black-mat-in-front-of-the-door safety ‘trick,’ were presented by Dr. Chip Long. He is a licensed geropsychologist with the Home Based Primary Care Program at the Central Arkansas VA Medical Center.

“Ninety percent of patients with dementia will display behavioral issues during the course of illness,” he said. Agitation, wandering behaviors and depression are three prevalent issues. With agitation is the physical aggression being a leading cause for nursing home placement.

Further Discussion

Dr. Long did discuss factors that can contribute to behavioral problems. Also about how clinicians and caregivers can most effectively begin to manage issues when they present.

Also of great importance is how care providers respond. “Dementia changes the rules of the game,” he stated. “Patients simply don’t have the ability to communicate as they have in the past.” Caregivers have to remember:

1. Don’t take behaviors/personal statements personally.
2. Don’t argue in front of the patient.
3. Don’t talk about the patient in front of the patient.


Rob Gerst, a Licensed Professional Counselor with North Metro’s Inspirations program. H was offering both some surprising and not-so-surprising statistics. That’s with regards to depression and mental illness in older adults:

1. Older men have the highest suicide rate.
2. The average life span of a man after retirement is five years.
3. Thirty percent of prescriptions written by physicians are psychotropic (acting on the mind).
4. Approximately 1 in 10 Arkansas adults age 50 or older suffer from depression.

“Mental and physical illness shouldn’t be separated,” Gerst stated. The labels we always attached to mental illness often keep people from getting the help they need.

Gerst also discussed about Alzheimer’s disease.  Talking about its effects on the brain. He then was sharing good news about breakthroughs in medicines for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and funding research. “The funding pipeline is flowing,” he said. Congress may be worried about its own mental state. There should be great progress over the next ten to 15 years.

Inspirations is North Metro’s Intensive Outpatient Geriatric Psychiatry Service. It is located at the medical center in Jacksonville. For additional information on this program, click HERE to visit the center’s website.

]For information that will vitally assist you with Alzheimer’s Planning for your loved one, download our “Barraged Boomer’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Planning” here. This free resource answers questions about appropriate levels of care as the disease progresses and discusses a number of ways to finance care.

The Seven Dwarfs (of Menopause)

You may or may not have heard of these guys – Itchy, B*tchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful and All-dried-up.

Dr. Shona Ray-Griffith of UAMS’ Psychiatric Research Institute on Women’s Mental Health Program offered a moment of levity introduced these during her discussion of depression in women.

“While depression and menopause have overlapping symptoms. There is no increasing risk of depression in most women during menopause. Unless they are already suffering from depression prior to onset,” she explained.

Ray-Griffith also said that depression is prevalent twice as that of breast  cancer among women. And it is the number two illness in women behind heart disease.

There is a common thread among all summit presenters. It is the fact that depression often goes largely unrecognized. (And they therefore remain untreated or under-treated). It is not a normal part of aging.

Additional speakers included attorney Margie Lickert, a deputy prosecutor for Arkansas’ Sixth Judicial District and Dan Moore, M.D., primary care physician and Director of HIV Services for ARcare.