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Visions Journal

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

The Geropsychiatric Education Program

Joan Hibbard, BScN

Reprinted from "Seniors' Mental Health" issue of Visions Journal, 2002, No. 15, p.36

‘What should we do with Helen? She’s a resident on our special care unit and always resists having a bath.” The Geropsychiatric Education Program (GPEP), an education service of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, would be quick to respond to this request. They would assist the staff to do a resident care review, exploring the resident’s behaviour in relationship to her physical and mental health diagnoses, her personal history, the physical environment and the staff’s approach.

Established in 1995, in response to the downsizing of Riverview, the Geropsychiatric Education Program was a joint venture of Vancouver/Richmond Continuing Care and Mental Health. It is comprised of educators from a variety of health care disciplines. The mandate of the Program is to address the psychogeriatric education needs of staff who work in residential care facilities, adult day centres, home support agencies and community health services.

The core programs offered by GPEP range from one to eight hours, and address a variety of topics including the “3 D’s” (dementia, depression and delirium), managing verbal and physical aggression, communicating with clients with dementia, bipolar disorder, and team building. Following a workshop addressing challenging resident behaviours, one staff member stated, “This course helped me understand more about the person, where he might be coming from, and how I could communicate with him better.”

Underlying all GPEP programs is the basic principle of person-centred care — care that addresses the specific needs, interests and personality styles of each client or resident. Staff are encouraged to explore the life history of residents, to understand the “who” of the person, not just their diagnoses or health concerns. As one residential care staff stated, “it’s about honouring who they are as persons … it takes the resident out of the passenger seat and puts him behind the steering wheel.”

Over the past three years, GPEP has offered several care facilities an opportunity to be part of an innovative nine-month person-centred care project. The project includes staff and family education, resident care reviews, and creative projects designed to enhance care that is person-centred. Administration, staff and families continue to attest to the positive benefits experienced by both residents and participants.

The Caring and Learning Together Program (CLT) is another GPEP program that targets community health care workers and family members. A 24-hour mental health education program, CLT is deALTERNATIVES AND APPROACHES: OUTREACH-BASED CARE AND TRAINING Joan Hibbard, BScN Joan works as an Educator with the Geropsychiatric Education Program in Vancouver, of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.. The Geropsychiatric Education Program He enjoyed the new place. The stairs were a little tricky but once he found the way it was easier. The others found them more difficult. He was doing his best to help the others but the younger ones only talked in that weird language and kept taking him back to do the stairs again. Dementia is an acquired illness that affects the functioning of a once-normal brain. There are several causes like Alzheimer’s disease or brain attacks (strokes). The key feature is that the person has memory loss. In Alzheimer dementia, the person cannot In Search of Meaning An Approach to Educating Long-Term Care Staff on Meeting Seniors’ Mental Health Needs signed to enhance the caregiving abilities, skills and confidence of family caregivers and home support workers. Now in its fourth year, CLT has graduated over 500 participants. One family member had this to say about the program: “ as a caregiver you begin to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, incompetent, discouraged and disappointed … this course gave me helpful hints and guidelines for understanding mental illness, how to care and communicate with my family member, and how to care for myself.”

With ongoing challenges to the health care system, and the increased demands of caring for older adults with mental health concerns, the Geropsychiatric Education Program plays an essential role in supporting staff and family members to provide quality care. GPEP can be contacted at (604) 742- 5240 or through its web site at

About the author
Joan works as an Educator with the Geropsychiatric Education Program in Vancouver, of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority

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