Chelsea Hospital Physician Highlights Mental Health and Well-Being Among Older Adults

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Nicholas Morcos, MD, a board-certified geriatric psychiatric physician for Chelsea Hospital, recently spoke with The Sun Times about the challenges some older members of the community face during the holidays and winter months. Dr. Morcos offered his expertise on how best to address depression, and talked about the services and treatment available to older residents of Chelsea and surrounding communities.

STN: How is is geriatric psychiatry different from standard psychiatry?

Dr. Morcos: Geriatric psychiatry is the study and treatment of neuropsychiatric conditions in older adults. In its simplest terms, it’s helping people function at their best.

Two of the more common things I see patients for are depression and cognitive decline; a lot of times, those two things go hand in hand. Patients may have early signs of memory decline or more advanced forms of dementia. I also treat older patients who are suffering from depression. Other things I commonly see include trauma disorders like PTSD, and high levels of anxiety and stress.

STN: What is a typical day like for you?

Dr. Morcos: My day-to-day involves meeting with geriatric patients and adults over the age of 50. I treat people both in-person and virtually. We have a multi-disciplinary approach to managing patient care, which is something that keeps patients coming back to us. Initially, patients have an assessment with our psychiatric nurses, who then match patients to a therapist and psychiatrist. We collaborate to make sure we meet the goals of each patient and ensure they receive the highest quality of care.

STN: The holidays can be especially hard for those who lost loved ones. How do you see that for older patients who perhaps have experienced more loss than younger generations?

Dr. Morcos: Losing a loved one is common, especially as people get older. We want to differentiate a normal, human grief reaction from signs of depression. It’s completely normal for someone to feel upset or lonely when loss occurs, especially around this time of year with the holidays and having fond memories with family.

Red flags I look for are signs of more significant depression — people who have more difficulty adapting to life without the loved one, social avoidance, more persistent feelings of depression and low self-worth, and loss of sleep or appetite.

STN: A lot of us have heard of seasonal depression. Is it similar to the holiday blues?

Dr. Morcos: It’s something we see a lot of — a mood disorder that strikes people around the same time every year. For us Michiganders, it’s the wintertime. What we recommend is using a light therapy lamp. This evidence-based approach can be just as helpful as medications. I recommend starting light therapy in the early fall so you don’t have to play catchup in January or February. Another thing we recommend to patients to combat seasonal depression is to stay active — whether that be at the gym or a wellness center, or the center or facility an older patient may be living in. Socializing with loved ones indoors is also very helpful.

STN: What does a first appointment look like in your office?

Dr. Morcos: Usually the first appointment is us getting to know the patient and the symptoms they are struggling with, along with a review of their mental health and medical background.

For older adults, I do some cognitive testing and elements of a neurological exam as well. We then review all that information to provide a recommended treatment plan that is best for the patient.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Morcos, you can call his office at 734-593-5250.

Photo: Nicholas Morcos, MD. Courtesy of Chelsea Hospital.

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