5 strategies to promote mental health in long-term care

Last week, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka chose to forgo mandatory but anxiety-producing post-event press interviews to protect her mental health. She was fined $15,000 by tennis officials and, after being threatened with expulsion from the French Open, withdrew from the event.

This decision by the world’s highest-paid female athlete has thrust the importance of emotional well-being into the spotlight.

As a mental health provider in a medically focused field, I see many areas where our own industry could benefit from increased attention to psychological needs. The worker who quits due to stress, the resident whose emotional withdrawal goes unnoticed because it’s not problematic to the staff, the family member who’s channeling their grief into a lawsuit – situations like these are costly to ignore.

While we now regularly assess residents for trauma and depression, there are additional steps we could take to address mental health in the LTC workplace, including the following:

  1. Universal psychology evaluations: Each person entering a nursing home is required to undergo evaluations by various departments such as nursing, speech, recreation and social work, but not psychology. Considering the types of stressors affecting those who arrive at our doorsteps: health conditions, mobility impairments, pain, shared rooms, sudden loss of independence, healthcare-related financial problems and separation from home, family, pets, religious supports, etc., who among us would not feel unsettled under those circumstances? While sometimes an initial consultation is enough to reassure new residents that the facility cares about their emotional experience, more often psychology services are a lifeline during a traumatic transition period and they facilitate compliance with other aspects of care.

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