Bristol Hospital constructs new unit for elderly patients

Published on Wednesday, 12 July 2017 20:46


BRISTOL - Bristol Hospital announced the construction of a new 15-bed, inpatient unit aimed at elderly patients with behavioral health issues Wednesday.

“This is really an exciting project for us,” said Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital. “This is really about meeting community needs for services.”

The idea for the 6,150-square-foot Inpatient Senior Behavioral Health Unit came out of a community needs assessment the hospital is required to do every several years. The most recent assessment identified behavioral health patients and geriatric patients as those with needs that haven’t been met to the fullest.

Dr. Margarita Reyes, who leads the hospital’s geriatric medicine program, said these patients typically have to seek treatment in Wallingford, Bloomfield and Hartford. Bristol Hospital’s new unit is slated to be completed early next year.

“This new unit will include a team of behavioral health professionals who will assess, diagnose and treat adults aged 65 and older with acute psychiatric and behavioral disorders,” said Dr. Nachiyappan Manoharan, medical director of behavioral health for the Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group. “Inpatient care of this population will be provided on a 24/7 basis in a safe, comfortable and secure environment.”

The new unit will be on level F of Bristol Hospital. The area it will occupy was previously used for patient care before, most recently, becoming a space for administrative offices. Demolition for the project has already begun, and recruiting new staff members is also underway.

Bristol Hospital plans to hire 30 new staff members - most of whom will be full-time - for the unit, including nurses, psychiatric advance practice registered nurses, social workers and therapists who specialize in the care of geriatric patients with behavioral health issues. This team will be led by a geriatric psychiatrist who is being recruited.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from inside the community and outside the community,” said Michelle Miranda, director of inpatient services at Bristol Hospital.

Hospital officials on Wednesday did not wish to disclose the cost of this project.

Miranda said the unit is targeted toward patients 65 or older, but those who are younger may also be considered for treatment there. The hospital already has an existing behavioral health unit for a younger population.

However, there are many differences in treating senior patients, and having a specialized unit for this population is the best approach, Reyes said. Well-trained clinicians are needed to treat geriatric patients with behavioral health problems, Reyes continued. Additionally, the equipment used could be different, even if it’s something as small as a chair that’s a little higher to make it more accessible for an elderly patient.

Elderly patients who receive behavioral health treatment typically get inpatient care for just under two weeks, Miranda said. After that, where patients go has a lot to do with where they came from.

Reyes said the new Inpatient Senior Behavioral Health Unit will treat patients suffering from such conditions as dementia, depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder and psychosis. She said treatment is necessary when someone starts exhibiting behavior that is unmanageable for their current environment, whether it be at a residential home or a skilled nursing facility. For example, Reyes said, those who begin showing signs of aggression or who experience things like hallucinations or delusions would benefit from treatment.

Things like balancing medications or other social adjustments will be used to transition patients out of the inpatient facility.

“It’s incredibly exciting for us,” Barwis said.

Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or at

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Forestville, General Business, General News on Wednesday, 12 July 2017 20:46. Updated: Wednesday, 12 July 2017 20:49.