Togus, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center near Augusta, has unveiled a renovated 18,000 square foot ward that triples the space dedicated at Togus to psychiatric care. The ward, which has expanded from 16 to 24 beds, includes four beds designated as short-term geriatric care beds. The new ward provides short-term care and assessments for veterans suffering acute psychiatric episodes. Patients generally stay between 5-10 days.
The renovations, which cost $5.5 million, began in March 2009. Staff writer Chris Crosby at the Kennebec Journal interviewed Togus staff. “I can’t express to you how excited I am,” Medical Center Director Brian Stiller told him. “We have great staff and veterans committed to helping themselves. Now we have the environment to pull it all together.” He continued, “It’s a huge improvement. It’s patient-centered. It’s a clean, clear atmosphere to heal in.”
Crosby also reports that the current facility has three to four beds per room, while most of the rooms in the new ward have a single bed. None of the rooms has more than two beds. Unlike the current ward, each room has its own bathroom. The new ward also features larger and more group rooms than the current facility, which has just one day room. The pastel colors and numerous windows allow lots of light and give the entire floor a comfortable, home-like feeling.
The rest of Crosby’s story is a little darker, because he notes that veterans commit suicide more frequently than the population at large. Safety was important in the renovation, and every aspect of each room was designed to be comfortable, but thoughtfully constructed to keep patients from injuring themselves.
Depression is a serious illness in elders, and a frequent result of military service for the men and women in the armed forces. While recent veterans and their families are getting a little more assistance in recognizing symptoms of depression and other mind-based, chemical-based or traumatic illnesses, many of our older veterans and their families suffer in isolation. The Togus site has contact information if you think a loved one needs a little help.