In Assisted Living Facilities (ALF), dealing with mental health concerns has been challenging for medical and care staff for decades. Addressing depression has become the key to ensuring a high quality of life for residents.
Depression and Aging at a Glance
According to the U.S. government’s Older Americans 2020 report, there are currently more than 50 million people in the country aged 65 years or older. It is equivalent to more than 16% of the population. The report’s authors predict that the number of seniors will have doubled between 2000 and 2030. Estimates show that the U.S. population will have 73 million seniors, compared to only 35 million 30 years earlier. As a result, one in five Americans will be considered “older.”
Living arrangements vary widely, but, more recently, assisted living facilities have become more popular. Most of these facilities organize themselves into communities where residents have the flexibility to choose between living independently and taking advantage of the services offered. Most communities offer meals, 24-hour assistance, housekeeping, and wellness programs.
Most of the assisted living facilities also provide their residents with healthcare and nursing services, including behavioral health counseling services. As residents grow older, most require more assistance. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, there are currently just under one million licensed beds available in assisted living communities, spread across nearly 29,000 facilities.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 17 million adults in the United States have suffered from at least one major depressive episode. Out of those, nearly two-thirds felt their symptoms severely impaired them. While adolescents and younger adults were most affected, depression is a problem among seniors.
Depression is the seventh most common chronic condition among residents in assisted living. Experts believe that nearly 30% of residents might be affected.
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Causes for Depression in Assisted Living Facilities
Depression has been closely linked to isolation and a lack of social contact. As we age, we tend to socialize less and spend more time ourselves. Visiting friends or attending other social events becomes less of a priority. However, it remains essential for our mental health.
Statistics show that Americans aged 55 and 64 spend 11% of their leisure time communicating and socializing. Once they reach the age of 75 and over, that figure drops to 7%.
Other health problems can also contribute to seniors developing depression. Managing chronic conditions such as diabetes has been linked to depressive symptoms. While depression as such is not an intrinsic part of aging, accepting the changes people are experiencing can be difficult. Having to ask for help, being less able to be active during day-to-day activities, coping with the death of loved ones can all contribute to seniors feeling low. In addition, developing depression has been associated with dementia.
Assisted living experts believe that residents are particularly vulnerable during their first few months in a facility. The move signifies the change in their lives, even though they may not yet need to take advantage of all the facility’s services.
There were some residents who weren’t coming out of their rooms and didn’t want to engage with anyone… that has really changed since offering this program — they are more apt to talk now and be around other people — they are really starting to come out of their shell and are really happy with the service.Renee Najarro, Director of Resident Care. The Ivy of McKinney
What Assisted Living Facilities Can Do
The community setup of assisted living facilities is the ideal foundation for building strong, healthy communities for residents.
Most are equipped with community spaces that make it easy to meet other residents, find new friends, and create connections. However, providing space is often not enough. Preventing depression starts by looking for behaviors that indicate someone may be at risk. It is where options like Behavioral Health Program powered by TrueCare™ for Assisted Living Facilities excel. Behavioral health focuses on supporting residents in developing habits that support their mental health.
Not every assisted living facility employs specialist behavioral health or mental health support staff. The TrueCare™ team can fill this gap at no cost to facilities or residents.
Our behavioral health care services are Medicare-approved and available when you need them. We can help your residents deal with problems like emotional outbursts, anxiety and depression, anger, and even a more general loss of interest. Behavioral health counseling aims to support residents and helps them lead their best life. Improving the quality of life in assisted living facilities and nursing homes is essential to helping residents enjoy their retirement.
As life expectancy continues to increase among seniors, owners and managers of assisted living facilities have an opportunity to ensure residents live life to the fullest.