A breath of fresh air: Terrace opens at NMC Generations Unit

Avery Vogts, left, and Greg Peterson, right at back, social workers at Newton Medical Center, talk to Julie Stewart, R.N., program manager, at Newton Medical Center's Generations Unit. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

There was a patient in the Generations Unit at Newton Medical Center who had family from Chicago, and this man really loved the snow.

He said he just wanted to get out today,” said Avery Vogts, social worker at the Generations Unit, which is a geriatric/psychiatric unit for people 55 and older, and a lot of them have dementia or Alzheimer’s or some kind of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, schizophrenia or anxiety.

Until the Barrick and Kristi Wilson Terrace opened, going outside for a patient at the Generations Unit, which is behind locked doors, was not possible.

When the patient with Chicago ties said he wanted to go outside, it was the first day the terrace could be used. Vogts said they bundled him up and got him out there. Although it was cold and snowing, it warmed the hearts of the staff, Vogts said.

The terrace also will be able to be used by patients who like to garden.

Now we have a space where they can go outside and get some fresh air,” Vogts said. “I think that’s healing in itself to get outside.”

The grand opening for the terrace, which the Generations Unit opens onto, was in November. Vogts said with memory loss comes anxiety and depression and that getting older causes a lot of depression.

We’re working to stabilize them with medication changes and therapy as they transition through different stages of life,” she said. “So we work with a psychiatrist, social workers, nurses, CNAs, program director, director of nursing—an interdisciplinary team to meet the patients’ needs.”

The unit can take up to 11 patients. Both Vogts and the other social worker at the unit, Greg Peterson, said they also have a variety of activities for patients, including morning and afternoon groups, one-on-one sessions, crafts, reminiscence therapy, psycho-social groups, time with a therapy dog that goes there three times a week and music therapy.

In addition, they recently partnered with Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton that brings crafts in, and some Newton High School students also volunteer, as did John Back, who went in to do a craft. For instance, on Friday, patients made snowflakes and cookies.

An average stay, Peterson said, is seven to 14 days. Vogts said people are transitioning there and can go home with services or go to a facility after they leave.

That’s kind of our role,” she said.

The Generations Unit opened in 2008, and they’ll take referrals from physicians or even a person’s home if there are concerns.

There is an admission process,” Vogts said. “We go through the admissions process, and hopefully we can help them out.”

They’ve had patients come from far and wide, as well as locally. They believe their smaller size attracts people.

I think we’re able to [provide] more one-on-one care,” Vogts said, adding she and Peterson work as much with the family and they do with the patients.

It’s a really good environment,” she said. “I can’t say enough about our nurses and CNAs.”

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