According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 25% of adults 65 years and older have experienced some level of depression or anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each case of elderly depression is also different. An approach that is effective with one individual may not work with the next.
This post will explore several effective ways to deal with senior depression in an RCFE setting.
Implement Strategies to Assist Seniors Dealing With Depression
Although the COVID pandemic certainly contributed to depression in elderly citizens, the easing of restrictions may not instantly make those anxious and depressed feelings go away.
Every RCFE administrator may want to put some of these suggestions into play to help their residents recover from these difficult times.
1. Adjusting Communication Skills and Activity Planning
One of the most important things you can do when someone in your care is experiencing depression is to listen. Often what an elderly individual needs most is someone to just hear them and pay attention to the feelings they are experiencing.
By listening carefully you will often hear clues to some of the causes of their anxiety and depression.
As moods start to normalize, let your residents express preferences and help plan new ventures. It’s vital for residents to feel they still have some control over their lives.
Start simple and focus on positive activities that can have a direct reflection on their mental health like exercise, nutrition or even starting a new hobby.
As Covid restrictions ease more and more, perhaps consult with a local senior center to see what group activities and social engagements are being planned.
A safe reemergence back into a social stream can quickly resume normalcy that may spark positive emotional results.
2. Foster a Positive Mental Outlook
If you are a caregiver to an empathetic resident, it can sometimes be tempting to unload your problems and/or stresses on this captive audience.
While there are times you may need or want to share personal feelings, talking about issues with your job or personal life can cause worry or increase low spirits for an already emotionally compromised senior.
As much as possible, keep conversations upbeat.
It can be something simple, such as a home repair you successfully accomplished or a new recipe that turned out well.
Don’t forget to ask your residents to also name something they recently enjoyed. This helps to direct their focus towards something positive.
3. Help Develop Purpose
None of us enjoy feeling useless or unwanted.
Seniors are no exception. They need a sense of purpose.
Brainstorm ways to target goals and objectives for your residents. Hobbies are a great start. Tying them into ways to help others also adds a big dose of purpose to the activity.
Interests and abilities may differ, but everyone likes to feel like they are making a difference.
Small examples could include installing a hummingbird feeder.
Even planting a few vegetable or flower seeds can create a sense of daily purpose and fruition as your resident watches his or her garden grow.
Encourage your residents to focus on simple projects for family members or even local charities. A senior in full control of their faculties might want to consider writing a family history or personal memoir for their children or grandchildren.
Senior care residents will often respond positively to contributing through creative efforts, utilizing their existing skills or even just volunteering their time.
4. Address Sleep Issues
Starting the day right is difficult if you’ve had a lousy night’s sleep. Working to improve your residents’ sleeping patterns and helping to overcome insomnia issues will go a long way towards helping to stabilize their moods.
You may also consider some environmental factors like eliminating caffeine after midday, omitting afternoon naps and avoiding heavy evening meals to help ensure a good night’s sleep.
5. Get Your Senior Involved With Exercise or Movement
Exercise is a great way to get endorphins flowing.
For some seniors, this can be a “slam-dunk”, but others may express that they are not interested or that they have earned the right to just “sit back and relax”.
Unfortunately, inactivity often goes hand-in-hand with sleep issues and depression. Try to encourage some activity and exercise while also taking care to address valid reasons for inactivity, such as pain or disabilities.
Solicit suggestions for appropriate exercise activities from a medical provider or physical therapist.
Many RCFE continuing education classes also provide some limited information and training in this area. For example, when dealing with seniors with limited ability, try chair exercises or a pedal device for leg movement while sitting.
6. Begin or Increase Social Activities
This looks different for every senior, depending on capabilities and personal preference, but you’ll notice that most residents will enjoy informal visits with family members or other persons who share similar interests.
For the more shy or introverted residents, start small.
Having morning coffee with a friend or neighbor, participating in a group activity or even just a FaceTime session with a family member can make a real emotional impact.
7. Keep Up With Technology
Speaking of FaceTime, seniors who learned to make use of web conferencing through services like Zoom or who used video chat apps such as FaceTime during the pandemic should continue to utilize them regularly.
Getting to stay connected, even virtually, with family and friends can be a huge morale booster to most residents.
Try to introduce tech-weary seniors to things like YouTube where they can watch how-to videos, live church services and other events they might otherwise be missing.
Technology remains a good way to interact with others and help residents stay connected to the outside world. Learning new technology also helps keep a senior’s mind stimulated.
Not only does the resident feel as if they are growing mentally, but that they’re also evolving with the ever-changing times and not just feeling like they’re a relic to the past.
Devise a Plan To Help Seniors Adjust to Post-Pandemic Life
Although many factors can contribute to depression in older adults, the fear of Covid-19, the stress of the stringent lockdowns, and just the overall impact it has had on this demographic certainly intensified the problem.
As the number of vaccinated citizens continues to increase, and the country starts to open up again, it is important for RCFE administrators and their staff to plan a smooth transition and return to normal protocols with the differing needs of elderly individuals in mind.
Even though the CDC, as well as state and local health departments, dictates many details of the gradual reopening, an RCFE administrator should still be ready to acknowledge that residents may need to adjust on their own timelines.
Part of any transition plan should include appropriate training of all caregiving staff on the signs and symptoms of depression and the appropriate ways to report and intercede. Online training is available for facilities to use to expand caregiver knowledge and meet required CDSS requirements.
Does Your RCFE Need Help With Senior Depression?
If your assisted living facility is struggling with Post-Pandemic depression issues, or even just a general loss in community morale, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Assisted Living Education is here to help and support you while we all journey together on the path to recovery.