November 6, 2019
Supporting Residents’ Mental Health

40% of SNF residents suffer from depression

A new study says work is the answer

Beyond their physical ailments, people living in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities are prone to depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and other mental health issues. Now, research from The University of British Columbia suggests that peer mentoring programs can help ease symptoms of depression in the care setting.

Long gone are the ‘institution-like’ nursing homes of yesterday. Long-term care patients are provided warm, welcoming common areas, outdoor spaces, music and pet therapy, among other comforts. Still, the loss of independence is oſten profound. In fact, studies show that roughly 40% of nursing home residents suffer depression symptoms.

While Alzheimer’s, dementia and stroke can exacerbate the problem, many residents experience a decline in mental health following the initial move to a nursing home. Separation from family, friends and their typical routine is difficult to overcome.

 

 

Finding meaning through mentorship

The UBC study designated 48 nursing home residents as ‘peer mentors,’ a job requiring them to undergo training in order to monitor their fellow residents. Aſter 6 months, participants showed “significant decreases in [their] depression and loneliness scores.” Clearly, the program had a powerful impact on their mental and emotional health.

“It’s changed my life,” reported one of the mentors. “It makes me feel like I am needed.”

The study concluded that a ‘team approach’ is best, as residents are able to cultivate meaningful relationships and feel like they are contributing, all while boosting their self-esteem in the process. Peer programs are not necessarily new; however, researchers say “a formal role that includes extensive mentoring education and team support is unique.”

We encourage our partners to peruse the study, gain inspiration, and educate staff about the amazing benefits of peer mentorship. The latest generation of antidepressant drugs are exceedingly safe and effective. With further facility efforts, we will be another step closer to solving the problem of poor mental health in nursing homes.