World Brain Day: A Focus on Brain Health


Research indicates that many medical conditions, often associated with age, affect cognition. After age 70, approximately 16% of the population has mild cognitive impairment and 14% experiences dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates 6.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, a figure expected to double by 2050.

Levindale’s Brain Health Unit serves geriatric patients with psychiatric and neurocognitive disorders. Placement on the secure unit is coordinated on a voluntary basis by the patient, family member or a mental health provider following an emergency department visit or as needs arise at home, in assisted living or at a nursing home. 

“Patients come to the unit when there’s a medical issue or a progressing disease process that causes a sudden behavior change or an exacerbation of symptoms,” says Edward Swanton, M.D., a geriatric psychiatrist overseeing the Brain Health Unit. “Sometimes the caregiver is no longer adequately managing the patient’s medication, or the patient stops taking medications altogether, resulting in an imbalance and the need for treatment.Brain Health Unit experts work to stabilize the patient, providing 24/7 nursing care, psychiatric oversight and medication management, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy. A structured care model engages patients with healthy activities and promotes a calm environment.

Levindale also offers a Brain Injury Program within its Acute Rehab Service, providing postsurgical care and comprehensive treatment for catastrophic brain injuries and lengthy illnesses.

Specialists treat “low-level” patients needing medical rehabilitation and “high-level” patients who tolerate increased levels of therapy.

“Patients are screened to ensure they can handle the program’s intensity,” says Melanie Brown, M.D., a physiatrist overseeing Levindale’s Acute Rehab Service. “We pay particular attention to balance, strength, coordination and motor control, working to improve range of motion, completion of self-care activities and verbal and nonverbal communication skills to enable more independent functioning.”