America’s population is aging. Over the next three decades, the baby boomer generation is retiring. As a result, the current population of seniors over 65 is set to almost double by 2050. Many of those people will require assistance with daily activities and more.
Assisted living facilities (ALF) are getting more popular living places for seniors. Those communities allow a degree of independence while also offering support where it is needed. Supporting seniors encompasses more than help with chores or visits to the doctor. Offering mental and behavioral health services is equally important. Plus, these services can transform the entire facility.
Why Behavioral Health Care Matters in Assisted Living Facilities
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), being healthy means striking a balance between physical, mental, and social well-being. The WHO recognizes that health is more than the absence of illness, and mental health is an essential part of it.
Mental health problems are commonly associated with aging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that one in five people over the age of 55 years old have had a mental health issue at some point in their life. Aging may contribute to cognitive and behavioral health challenges, but it does not cause those ailments.
Instead, common causes of mental health problems in the elderly include:
- Illness and frailty
- Becoming dependent on medications, some of which may cause mental health issues
- Bereavement and loss
- Transitioning from independent to assisted living
It may not always be possible to prevent illness or avoid transitioning to assisted living as a person ages. However, behavioral health services delivered by highly qualified mental health professionals can dramatically improve a person’s quality of living. Seniors will be able to enjoy their life better, for longer.
Transforming Assisted Living Facilities
Scientific studies have highlighted the challenges posed by mentally ill residents in assisted living facilities for years. Many facilities, staff, and other residents struggle to prepare for and adapt to housing and treating seniors with mental illness. One of the most disruptive and stressful diseases these parties have to deal with is Dementia. People living with Dementia have diverse needs that need individual solutions.
Behavioral health care delivers these. There is no need to hire a big team of psychiatrists. Specially qualified nurses and your team can provide behavioral health care. The benefits will be noticeable almost immediately.
Ways Behavioral Health Services Can Improve the Entire Assisted Living Facility
- Integrating behavioral health care with primary care
- Shifting team responsibility
- Strengthening your ALF community
Integrating Behavioral Health Care and Primary Care
As the pandemic years have shown, mental health is an integral part of health and overall well-being. Seniors living in assisted living facilities and nursing homes were hit particularly hard as the pandemic led to social distancing and limited outside contacts. As a result, some people develop mental health concerns.
However, adding psychiatrists to your team or taking residents to see their preferred psychiatrist is not always the answer.
Integrating behavioral health care into the primary consideration you already provide offers a better long-term solution.
To be successful, integrated care needs to consider all aspects of a person’s health. Seniors who develop mental health concerns like depression tend to display different symptoms compared to younger people. They may complain about physical symptoms rather than feeling low for a prolonged time.
Treating just those physical symptoms would not provide all the person’s care. Integrating a process to screen for conditions like depression and anxiety into routine checks delivers better results. This approach clarifies that mental health is simply one aspect of health rather than something that stigmatizes a person.
Shifting Team Responsibility
While your facility may not require an in-house team of psychiatrists, professional behavioral health care needs to be managed by an appropriately qualified person. In many cases, a registered nurse with specific mental health training and skills would be a registered nurse. It is the person who is responsible for the assessment of new residents. They will also develop tailored treatment plans depending on the individual.
Implementing those behavioral health care plans is something that your team can easily do with the proper training. Your team is already delivering critical health care and support to your facility’s residents. Adding behavioral health care to their skill set complements and completes the training and knowledge they possess.
As a result, staff will feel more confident when working with residents dealing with mental health challenges.
When equipped with the right skills and approach to address these challenges, your team may even be able to prevent negative behaviors from developing into mental health conditions.
Your staff will feel more confident when they are supporting residents.
Truly integrating behavioral health care into your facility’s services will only work if every team member understands the concept and its importance. Many elderly residents require essential assistance to develop and maintain positive behavioral habits.
Addressing the Need for Mental Health Services in Senior Living CommunitiesEvery year, residents of the assisted living facilities experience increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. A quality behavioral health programs can help. Watch webinar
Strengthening your ALF Community
Integrating behavioral health care into primary care to deliver a single, consistently high level of care enhances your community. Residents benefit from having a better quality of life.
Staff trained in behavioral health care, as well as physical sustenance, deliver a better service. This improved quality of care automatically results in happier residents. Assisted living residents integrated into their community through activities and opportunities to socialize are more likely to stay within the community.
Behavioral health care improves occupancy and retention in assisted living facilities. There are currently nearly 29,000 ALF in the United States. Most of them continue to have space available, and competition for residents can be challenging. Resident turnover has also traditionally been high.
Offering behavioral health care services contributes to building a strong community where residents want to stay. Not only that, but happy residents are likely to recommend your community to others. High retention rates and recommendations enhance the reputation of the entire facility and help attract new residents.
How to Add Behavioral Health Care to your Range of Services
Behavioral health care services have the potential to transform your assisted living facility and secure its future. Offering those services does not need to be complicated. Rather than hiring a large in-house team, consider joining forces with an experienced external provider.
TrueCare™ offers dedicated Behavioral Health Programs designed to support assisted living facilities.
The entire program is Medicare-approved and is therefore free of charge for both facilities and residents. Individual services are highly customizable, making it easy to tailor them to the needs of each resident.
Our team becomes an extension of your team. Together, we start with a thorough assessment to identify who is at risk and how to provide support. Whether it is behavioral health counseling, practical help with issues like medication management, or encouraging social contacts, this program offers suitable solutions.
By transforming the lives of residents, behavioral health care transforms your assisted living community.