Discussing mental health concerns has become more commonplace over the last two years. For most people, the coronavirus pandemic relieved some stigma about admitting to psychological challenges. In assisted living facilities (ALF), medical and care staff have found it challenging to deal with mental health concerns for decades. However, addressing depression is the key to ensuring residents’ high quality of life.
Depression and Aging at a Glance
According to the U.S. government’s Older Americans 2020 report, more than 50 million people are 65 years or older. This is equivalent to more than 16% of the population and will double between 2000 and 2030. Estimates show that the U.S. population will have 73 million seniors, compared to only 35 million 30 years ago. As a result, one in five Americans will be “older.”
Depression is the seventh most common chronic condition among residents in assisted living. Experts believe that nearly 30% of residents might be affected. 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 these, nearly two-thirds felt their symptoms severely impaired them. While adolescents and younger adults were most affected, depression is a problem among seniors too.
Assisted Living Facilities can Address Depression
Older seniors have various living arrangements but assisted living facilities have recently increased in popularity.
Most ALF owners organize their facilities into communities where residents can choose between living independently or taking advantage of services. Most communities offer meals, 24-hour assistance, housekeeping, and wellness programs. They also provide healthcare and nursing services, including behavioral health counseling.
As residents grow older, most require more assistance. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, just under one million licensed beds are available in assisted living communities across nearly 29,000 facilities.
Causes for Depression in Assisted Living Facilities
1.Isolation and decreased socializing
Depression is closely linked to isolation and a lack of social contact. Statistics show that Americans aged 55 to 64 spend 11% of their leisure time communicating and socializing. Once people reach the age of 75, that figure drops to 7%. As people age, they socialize and visit friends less frequently. However, keeping up with these activities is essential for optimal mental health.
2. Chronic medical conditions
Health problems can also contribute to seniors having depression. Managing chronic conditions such as diabetes has been linked to depressive symptoms. While depression is not an intrinsic part of aging, it’s difficult to accept the changes it brings. Having to ask for help, being less active during day-to-day activities, and coping with the death of loved ones can contribute to seniors feeling low. In addition, depression is associated with dementia.
Assisted living experts believe that residents are particularly vulnerable to having depression during their first few months in a facility. The move signifies a significant change in their lives, even though they may not yet need to take advantage of the facility’s services.
How Assisted Living Facilities can Alleviate Depression
The setup of assisted living facilities is ideal for building strong, healthy communities for residents.
Most have 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.
Options like the Behavioral Health Program powered by TrueCare™ for Assisted Living Facilities excel at discovering early signs of depression. Behavioral health focuses on supporting residents to develop 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 an overall loss of interest. Behavioral health counseling aims to support residents and help them lead their best lives. 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 their lives to the fullest.