National Nursing Home Week: How Psychologists Help “Fulfill the Promise”

The American Health Care Association (AHCA) chose the theme of “Fulfilling the Promise” for National Nursing Home Week May 8-14, 2011.  According to the AHCA planning guide, part of this Promise is a focus on the whole person.  Psychologists help fulfill this Promise every day, by addressing the emotional aspects of illness in addition to maintaining an awareness of medical concerns.

The AHCA planning guide suggests:

  • Emphasize how you tend to the spirit: Psychologists often address spiritual concerns as part of the psychotherapy.
  • Help spread the message that “It’s not your grandmother’s nursing home anymore”:  Contrary to the popular belief that older adults find talking to a psychologist stigmatizing, I’ve had very few refusals of treatment based on this, and the new cohort of residents is actively seeking out mental health services.
  • Explain that long term care is increasingly about “going home” rather than “staying longer”: A frequent focus of psychological treatment is reducing depression and anxiety, and making the most of the opportunity for rehabilitation in the early days after admission.  This increases the likelihood residents will be able to return to their homes.
Nursing homes Fulfill the Promise of treating the whole person when they offer psychological services to their residents, treating the mind as well as the body.

2 thoughts on “National Nursing Home Week: How Psychologists Help “Fulfill the Promise””

  1. Recreational professionals work on residents emotional wellbeing. We provide leisure activities that stimulate the mind and senses and facilitate opportunities for socialization. We help residents both maintain life long interests and encourage the exploration of new interests. For those people who have lost function, whether cognitive or physical, we teach adaptive techniques. We promote happiness despite illness. (Which is rarely easy, when illness leaves up you tired, in pain or physically sick, the last thing you are thinking of is having fun.)

    Often, it takes the intervention of a Psychologist to get the residents to the point of willingness to get involved, despite the emotional and physical barriers. Thank you Dr. El and all Psychologists who dedicate themselves to people in long term care.

  2. Sue, it's the recreation department that brings life to the lives of nursing home residents. Without it, all that's left is a focus on the medical, with the residents as patients. Activities create a community and provide the opportunity to continue a meaningful life. They're an essential tool for reducing depression and the backbone of psychotherapy in a nursing home. Thank you!


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