The past two years have opened up conversations about behavioral health, mental health, mental well being, and previously stigmatized topics. Healthcare experts have recognized the importance of these issues within assisted living settings for some time. During the pandemic, paying attention to the behavioral health of assisted living residents has become even more critical.
What is considered behavioral health? Behavioral health refers to habits people have or establish that help them live a balanced lifestyle and support mental well being. Good habits contribute to this balance. In many cases, they include a healthy diet, getting some exercise, and taking steps to address existing illnesses.
To clarify behavioral health, it is worth comparing it with mental health. As a field of research and practical application, mental health is concerned with more than our behaviors. It also considers biological and environmental factors. Another distinction between the two terms is that mental health focuses on a person’s state of being rather than how they are behaving.
What is Behavioral Health Care?
Behavioral health care involves recognizing destructive behaviors and developing ways to encourage more sustainable, healthy behaviors.
Some of the most common detrimental behaviors include:
- Social isolation
- Inefficient sleep
- Poor hygiene
- Disturbed eating habits
- Substance abuse
In assisted living communities and nursing homes, behavioral health has been a concern for several years. As the coronavirus pandemic forced the operators of these facilities to protect their residents from Covid-19, their mental well-being almost inevitably suffered.
Protecting residents meant limiting social contacts, in many cases for months. Without stimulating communication with other residents in their assisted living community, some of the most vulnerable residents suffered the most.
Those without family who would check-in by phone or video call may have gone for weeks without social contacts aside from the facility’s staff. But not all assisted living or nursing home staff are trained to address what is considered behavioral health.
As the pandemic appears to be retreating and the world is opening up, assisted living facilities have been able to take restrictions off the table. Residents can once again enjoy social contacts.
Offering Behavioral Health Care Support
It’s not enough to understand “what is the difference between mental and behavioral health” because the effects of behavioral health can be severely detrimental to the physical health and wellbeing of a patient; it’s essential to work on changing their behavior and lifestyle choices.
If a patient is, for instance, overeating, over time, that will lead to obesity. Obesity, in turn, can lead to conditions like heart disease or fatty liver disease. Those can eventually limit mobility and the ability to engage in social activities, which can trigger mental health conditions like depression.
So, while we sometimes see behavioral health as a symptom of mental health, it can also trigger physical and psychological health conditions. We, therefore, cannot simply ignore behavioral health factors when we are working to give patients a good quality of life.
What Can Be Done?
At this point, assisted living communities and other facilities have both an opportunity and an obligation to offer behavioral health care support to their residents.
This support starts by analyzing residents’ current behavior and identifying issues that need addressing. Lockdowns and other restrictions have been challenging for everyone, no matter their age. However, while staying at home has caused many working-age people to gain weight due to a diet of takeaway food and a sedentary lifestyle, older people may experience the opposite.
What is Behavioral Health Services?
Having defined behavioral health, we can now look at behavioral health services and how your facility can offer them. The chances are that most assisted living facilities already provide part of these services. But considering the impact of the pandemic on the elderly, now is the time to implement a structured, professional behavioral health program.
A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) generally manages Well-designed behavioral health services. While not all your staff may have a psychiatric or mental health nursing background, consider training every staff member in behavioral health care. There is the only way to ensure your team can spot problems early and address them as soon as possible.
Any behavioral health program led by a highly-qualified nurse practitioner will offer plenty of activities to your residents. No matter their age, people enjoy different activities. Offering a wide range of other choices makes residents more likely to participate. Participation automatically increases residents’ social contacts and interactions.
It is impossible to analyze what is behavioral health services without considering healthy eating habits. As we get older, many people develop conditions like diabetes or heart disease, influencing dietary choices. Behavioral health services need to encourage assisted living residents to eat regularly and choose a balanced diet at the most basic level.
Eating together with other residents is one of the best ways to help facilitate good dietary habits. Naturally, the choice of foods on offer will also play a significant role.
What Your Facility Can Do Now
Implementing a solid behavioral health services program is easy with the right partner by your side.
Our team understands the specific needs of assisted living communities and your team’s challenges. This comprehensive program has been accepted by Medicare and is delivered in person by our qualified and compassionate staff. We provide our services at no cost to your facility or your residents, and you can reap the benefits almost immediately.
The TrueCare Behavioral Health platform offers a comprehensive, in-person, Medicare-accepted program—building an environment where residents can grow stronger emotionally and help build a healthier community.