Dr. Visa helps seniors with memory problems
Dr. Visalakshi Srinivasan chats with Martha Nordhoff, 91 of Trinity Towers in Melbourne.
Aging in place, safely for as long as possible, is the goal of Health First Aging Institute in Melbourne under the leadership of Medical Director Dr. Visalakshi Srinivasan, also known as Dr. Visa.
When that process is complicated with possible dementia or Alzheimer’s for those older than 65, there are the tests and services to help at the state-funded East Central Florida Memory Disorders Clinic at the same location.
“I want to spread awareness of our services because memory loss and getting old is such a stigma. I want people to realize there are lots of things we can do to help age successfully. I want them to know that memory loss is not a normal part of aging, just like depression is not a normal part of aging. We can do a lot of things to improve their quality of life and keep them independent and functional and that’s what everybody wants,’’ she said.
Dr. Visa, who took the position in 2005, works alongside an interdisciplinary medical team that includes nurse practitioners, specialists in social work, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, pharmacy, nutritional services, home care, private duty nursing and hospice care.
Dr. Visa’s professional interests include geriatric syndromes such as memory disorders, medication and polypharmacy assessments, gait and balance assessments, frailty and future planning for her patients.
“The biggest protective factor is education. There are people who don’t want to admit it because it’s fear. A lot of times they get confused between memory and intelligence. They are two different things,’’ Srinivasan said.
Testing early is crucial because there are ways to slow down the progression of memory loss and doctors can rule out reversible causes such as a vitamin deficiency caused by poor diet, according to Dr. Visa.
She also said other causes of memory problems are over-the-counter sleeping medications, and medications for urinary incontinence.
“A lot of times, if they just avoid drinking coffee or tea in the evening or schedule toileting. If they get their priorities right, they don’t need a medication. It’s lifestyle changes and being more mindful of what they do,’’ she said.
Depression — often manifested as body complaints without actual cause — can also be treated with group therapy and by other means, she said.
Aging Services is different from other doctors’ offices because the entire patient’s lifestyle is taken into account and there is a social worker on staff, she said.
“It’s very important when you talk to them about their medical symptoms. We have to ask about what’s happening at home and social issues because it’s all interconnected,’’ she said.
Early diagnosis is a key because it gives staff a chance to help clients plan for the future, such as establishing a living will and power of attorney.
“We want to have a plan in place when things are stable. We don’t want to wait for a crisis when decisions are made emotionally,’’ she said.
Health First Aging Institute is located at 3661 S. Babcock St. in Melbourne.
For more information, call 321 434-7611.