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A Q&A with Howard Gilman, MD, about Southgate and Behavior Management

A Q&A with Howard Gilman, MD, about Southgate and Behavior Management

Howard Gilman, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry. He serves as the Medical Executive of Christian Health and as the psychiatrist for Southgate behavior-management unit

What is behavior management?

“Behavior management is a form of treatment using behavioral techniques to alter a person’s actions. People with dementia, for example, generally don’t respond well to explanations and criticism. They do, however, respond positively to environmental changes, which can constructively affect the way they will act.”

What type of symptoms can be effectively treated with behavior management?

“Behavior management can modify severe behavioral disturbances of some forms of dementia, cognitive disorders, and mood disorders. These disturbances include combative, disruptive, and disturbing conduct; unmanageable episodes of agitation; history of abusive behavior; resisting care; screaming and hostility; verbal disruption; inappropriate sexual behavior; pacing, and destructive behavior.”

Does Christian Health (CHCC) offer behavior management?

“Yes. CHCC has an entire unit – Southgate – dedicated to behavior management. This 44-bed long-term care unit is one of only four similar programs in the entire state of New Jersey. When it was established 22 years ago, Southgate was a model for North Jersey approved by the state Department of Health and Senior Services. Its creation was prompted by the growing volume of vulnerable individuals who were being denied admission to or being discharged from other long-term care facilities due to their outbursts or because the facilities lacked appropriate care for their special needs. Thousands of individuals, ranging in age from 40 to 100, have been treated at Southgate since it opened.”

What are some of the unique features of Southgate?

“The specially trained staff includes psychiatrists, nurses, activity therapists, rehab therapists, social workers, and chaplains. They are not only experts in behavior management therapy, but deliver care compassionately and in accordance with our Person- and Family-centered Care model. The staff-to-resident ratio is small, so more personalized therapies can be offered to target specific behaviors. The residence offers a calm and quiet living space, which is vitally important to this fragile population. The therapeutic-activity program strives to create an environment that is stimulating, social, and safe, and that helps to decrease socially inappropriate behavior or aggression. One of the most effective therapeutic activities is Snoezelen, which uses light, sound, and aromatherapy to create a relaxing, calm, soothing, and tranquil environment. It increases a resident’s awareness of self and others.”

Is treatment at Southgate successful?

“We have so many success stories. One individual was admitted to our Ramapo Ridge Behavioral Health and was later transferred to Southgate. She improved significantly and was able to transition to The Longview Assisted Living Residence, where she is flourishing.”

What plans are on the drawing board for Southgate?

“A major renovation and refurbishment project will begin this year so that the unit will be more suitable for the growing and changing needs of residents. All resident rooms and bathrooms, lounges, activity spaces, dining rooms, corridors, nurses’ station, and main common shower room will be overhauled and upgraded. The project will encompass new furniture, fixtures, flooring, lighting, window treatments, doors, paint, and wall coverings. Systems and equipment, including the nurse-call and security systems, will be upgraded and state-of-the-art. The project is being funded through grants and private donations.”

To learn more about Southgate, call Karen Hockstein at (201) 848-4463 or email