Reducing Learned Helplessness in LTC (McKnight’s LTC News)

Here’s my latest article at McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Reducing learned helplessness in LTC

John O’Connor’s recent post on the pain/depression cycle raised some interesting points about depression in long-term care. He referenced a 2009 study that found that over 47% of nursing home residents suffer from some level of depression, and he reported on a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study showing the effectiveness of talk therapy with elders.

Despite this, O’Connor points out, psychological services in LTC are often underutilized.  As I noted in my 2010 article, Improving the treatment of mental health issues in nursing homes, we can do more to identify residents who may benefit from psychological services and systematically refer them for treatment before problems become entrenched.

Learned helplessness

The University of Pittsburgh study reported that one of the helpful aspects of psychotherapy is the reduction of the learned helplessness often seen in depression. Learned helplessness comes about when a person believes that they have no control in a situation, even when they do….

Learned helplessness in LTC residents

There are many situations in long-term care that can lead to learned helplessness among our residents. Every time a call bell goes unanswered for too long, it leads residents to conclude that there’s no point in asking for help. When a staff member tells a resident she’ll follow through on a task and then doesn’t, that experience is reinforced.

For the entire article, visit:

Reducing learned helplessness in LTC

My book, The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is a great tool for reducing learned helplessness.  Please consider giving it to your residents or loved ones.


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