There are many physical changes in health that accompany aging, including mental health. While residents in assisted living communities may seem content, 15–20 percent of adults over the age of 65 have experienced depression at one point or another. The question arises: why are these residents experiencing a decline in mental health and is there anything we can do to stop it?
Why Are Residents Depressed?
Older people deal with a lot; from losing loved ones to potentially losing mobility, there are more than a few things that could get them down. Despite these hardships, depression and anxiety aren’t a natural part of the aging process. These mental illnesses can lead to higher medical costs due to the need for more care, more frequent doctor visits, and medication. Not only can mental illnesses cost more, but they can also worsen other conditions like heart disease and diabetes. It’s not always the case, but often, depressive episodes can be catalyzed by social isolation. Although there are other people living in these communities, making a lasting connection with someone there may not be the easiest thing to accomplish.
The relationship between depression and social isolation is cyclical; isolation can influence depression, and depression can lead to social isolation. This lonely feeling has many facets that could be contributing factors like friends or family that have passed away, a lack of mobility or transportation, or not feeling a sense of community in the assisted living space. How can we help these residents live better lives while also reducing medical costs?
Life Review Therapy
Life Review Therapy refers to the practice of looking back through one’s life to gain a sense of ownership and fulfillment. This kind of therapy is applicable to most adults, although it is best used in older adults 65 years or older. Studies have shown that talking about and reminiscing on positive memories can help to improve mood which can help add perspective to someone's life. Our program here at TSOLife emphasizes this correlation by prompting residents to recall and retell some of their fondest memories. Not only can these reflections boost mental health and positivity, but they can offer up opportunities for staff to make genuine connections with their residents. Better relationships can help alleviate depression and social isolation in seniors while also improving employee retention.
Other Mood-Boosting Methods
In addition to Life Review Therapy, there are other steps you can help your residents take to improve their mood and mental health. Research shows that exercise, at least three 30-minute sessions per week, can greatly improve mood. These exercise sessions can be broken down into smaller segments, so exercise doesn't have to be continuous to reap the benefits.
In addition to exercise, a nutritionally rich diet is important. Along with aging comes differing dietary requirements. Generally, aim to provide omega-3, fiber, and calcium rich foods. Drinking enough water may also be something that your residents forget to do, so ensure that there are plenty of places and opportunities for them to drink.
Lastly, getting enough quality sleep plays a major role in cognition and mental health. Trying to help set a schedule for your residents is an important step to making sure they're getting a good nights sleep. It's also helpful to be aware of any sleeping disorders or issues, like restless leg syndrome, that may prevent REM sleep.
The benefits of ensuring good mental health of your seniors are countless. From improving your residents lives to developing more meaningful relationships between your staff and seniors, make sure everyone's happy to make sure everyone's healthy.
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TSOLife (The Story Of Life) focuses on preserving legacy and passing down life stories for future generations. We do this by helping senior living communities leverage technology to capture, preserve, and share the life stories of the residents in their care.
Our vision is that one day, no grandchild will have to wonder who their grandparent was.