How to better foster community among long-term care residents (McKnight’s LTC News)
Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
Mr. Cooper was staring out the window when I came by to see him for his weekly psychotherapy session. “There’s no one here to talk to except you,” he said despondently.
“You’re the fourth resident who told me that this week, Mr. Cooper!” I replied. “We need to get all of you together so you can talk to each other!”
Our strength is community
Many, if not most, of the services offered in the nursing home can be provided through home-based care. What sets nursing homes and other long-term care sites apart is the opportunity for residents to socialize with each other with ease.
The community atmosphere can be one of our most appealing aspects and biggest selling points to potential residents. Savvy facilities will make the most of this through developing and promoting their recreation programs and facilitating connections among residents and their families.
Benefits of social connections
According to Anna Miller in her January 2014 article in the American Psychological Association Monitor, having strong social connections has been “linked with such benefits as a greater pain tolerance, a stronger immune system, and a lower risk of depression and early death … [Loneliness causes] physiological processes to activate that are directly bad for your health.” This suggests we can actually improve the physical health of our residents by increasing their involvement in meaningful social activities.
Creating a stronger sense of community
Here are some suggestions to help develop positive connections between residents in long-term care:
1. Facilitate interactions between residents upon their admission.
As I wrote in The Critical Period, the arrival in LTC is a time when new behaviors — such as attending activities — are easiest to establish. Don’t wait until a resident is in the habit of staying alone in his or her room all day; instead, send a welcoming committee to engage the resident immediately. Find out new residents’ interests and connect them to others in the facility who share their passion for gardening or baseball, for instance.
2. Create opportunities to share secrets.
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