I had the pleasure of being interviewed recently by Susan Ryan, senior director of The Green House Project, for her Elevate Eldercare podcast. As I remarked to her, what could be better than talking with someone kind and knowledgeable about something I’ve been obsessed with for more than 20 years?
We spoke about the experiences that inform my thinking about long-term care, and we addressed topics such as the disconnect between mental and physical health, the moral injury and staff burnout exacerbated by the pandemic, and ways of better supporting staff, families and facilities in their efforts to provide quality care.
Readers can listen to the podcast here, and I’d like to expand in this column on some of the points discussed in the conversation.
First, let me call attention to the fact that there are not a lot of mental health professionals in long-term care; it’s first and foremost a medical setting.
The voices that we hear from regarding care tend to be physicians and nurses, and increasingly, nursing aides. On the business and policy side, we’re informed by CEOs, heads of trade organizations, healthcare economists and policymakers. Families and resident advocates have a place at the table.
But there’s less often a mental health perspective on long-term care, especially from those embedded in nursing home teams.
Many of the problems facing LTC, however, can be mitigated by using a mental health lens: staff burnout, unappealing facility cultures, family distress, subpar end-of-life care, the increasing population of residents with severe mental illness, etc.