UT Health Center’s ‘Celebration 2006’ will raise funds for new ART unit offering specialized care for seniors

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It’s no secret that East Texas is drawing people in their 50s and 60s who see the piney woods as a beautiful haven for their golden years. People 65 and older are now the fastest growing segment of the population in this region. And Tyler was the first city in Texas to be named a certified retirement community.

In 2010, one out of every five Americans will be over 65. Many of these seniors will have chronic health conditions, and a significant number will have several, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Fortunately, in this region they will be able to turn to the Center for Healthy Aging at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. The Center for Healthy Aging is a comprehensive approach to wellness that brings together physicians, programs, and services dedicated to patients’ continuing health, as well as the health of mature adults throughout East Texas.

The center’s latest initiative is the Aging Research and Treatment unit (ART), a unique inpatient setting that will offer specialized care to elderly East Texans. Proceeds raised from the Health Center’s annual “Celebration” and fundraiser on Nov. 2, 2006, will be used for the ART unit.

The ART unit will use advanced techniques in geriatric care that promote and maintain healthy aging during an acute illness. It will employ a multi-disciplinary team of geriatricians, geriatric-trained nurse practitioners, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and pharmacists. The team will work to maintain patients’ abilities to perform daily tasks by minimizing the adverse effects of procedures, tests, and medications, while striving to reduce length of stay.

“Hospitalization can be physically and emotionally taxing, especially for older patients,” said Dr. Kent Davis, the Center for Healthy Aging’s medical director. “As many as 35 percent of older patients experience a decline in their ability to perform even the most basic tasks while hospitalized – and it’s not entirely due to the illness. The ART unit will address the problem of patients’ functional decline by redesigning hospital care.”

In contrast to traditional hospital care, ART patients will be encouraged to participate in group activities, socialize with others on the unit, and dine in the common area.

“It’s important for geriatric patients to be moving and visiting with family, staff, or other patients outside of their rooms. By promoting these activities, we can decrease some of the complications that occur during hospitalization, such as delirium and debility,” Dr. Davis said.

“The encompassing care they’ll receive will prevent the long hospital stays that the elderly usually encounter. Our goal is to return the patient to their home as soon as possible,” he added.

Since being designated The East Texas Center for Rural Geriatric Studies by the 78th Texas Legislature in 2003, the Health Center has opened the Center for Healthy Aging outpatient clinic in the Riter Center for Advanced Medicine. It recently expanded this service to the University Health Clinic on Patriot Drive in southeast Tyler. The Center for Healthy Aging has also created a separate Senior Assessment Clinic for frail and high-risk seniors, and the Center’s medical professionals now provide clinical care to 12 nursing homes.

UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk Calhoun said, “We are very excited about this next step, the creation of our Aging Research and Treatment unit at the Health Center. We are all affected by the challenges of the aging process, and we all want to take comfort in knowing that our loved ones have access to the best care possible during their later years.”

Since 2002, UTHSCT has held its annual “Celebration,” a gala event to help raise funds for new initiatives. So far, this event has raised more than $535,000 for advanced patient care and research at the Health Center. The theme of “Celebration 2006” is “The ART of Healthy Living.”

The event will feature dinner, a video presentation, and dancing to the music of The Pictures and will be held on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006, at Harvey Convention Center in Tyler. As an additional fundraiser, raffle tickets for a Susan Robinson shopping spree or the luxury of driving a new Wagner Cadillac every three months for a year are also being sold.

“The people of Tyler and East Texas have always supported the academic health care taking place at the Health Center. They know it’s a vital part of our community. The ART unit will be the first of its kind in East Texas and will benefit our elderly through its state-of-the-art care. I’m pleased that funding from Mr. and Mrs. James Fair has already been received to support the ART unit activity room. This will be a multi-purpose room of about 300 to 400 square feet where families can visit with their loved ones and where patients can meet to enjoy television or participate in recreational activities while they recover,” said Annette Findley, 2006 Celebration committee chair.

For more information on how you can support the ART unit or for “Celebration 2006” ticket information, please call the Health Center at (903) 877-7734.

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.