How Skilled Nursing Facilities Help Seniors Through the Post-Holiday Blues

Having breakfast together

There has been an enduring myth that suicides peak in December, as those who may be experiencing loss or heartache are unable or uninterested in partaking in the season’s festivities. But according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the suicide rate is actually lowest in December. It’s the post-holiday season that may bring a greater risk of depression.

Because health issues—which may prevent people from participating in life with the same vigor as when they were younger—can trigger depression, those living in skilled nursing facilities may be particularly at risk. Here are some way today’s nursing homes are helping ensure their residents and patients keep their spirits up throughout the year.

Provide treatment. One of the advantages of living in an environment dedicated to improving a senior’s health is that depression has a better chance of being diagnosed and treated. Depression is a highly treatable condition and seniors, as a group, typically respond well. Treatment may include everything from talk therapy to medication to providing an environment that is conducive to positive thoughts.

Provide opportunities for exercise. For those who are able, nursing homes generally provide daily exercise classes, which can have powerful mood-boosting effects. A study at Duke University found that among people older than 50 who were majorly depressed, those who exercised for their therapy showed significant improvement compared to those who received medication alone. And the exercise wasn’t extensive—it consisted of walking briskly for 30 minutes three times a week.

caregiver having a conversation with senior woman, touching on shoulders

Provide opportunities for socialization. Isolation is a huge trigger for depression, so connecting to social activities can literally be lifesaving. Most nursing homes have daily activities, from birthday celebrations to movie nights to the ever-popular Bingo. There is always something going on for residents to participate in.

Ensure they’re getting the proper nutrition they need. Numerous studies have shown a link between sugar and refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, pasta) and depression. These foods cause inflammation in the brain, which can cause depression. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found brain inflammation was 30 percent higher in patients who were clinically depressed. Most nursing homes have dieticians on staff, who help ensure residents are receiving a balanced diet of nutritious, tasty foods.

Helping them get a good night’s sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, almost half of all adults age 60 and older have some degree of insomnia, which can exacerbate depression. Here are just some of the ways nursing homes help ensure their residents are getting the sleep they need:

  • Increasing daytime activities (and reducing daytime napping) and reducing disturbances to nighttime sleep
  • Encouraging exposure to sun and light during the day and darkness at night
  • Reviewing and providing medications to assist with improved sleep

Encourage a positive attitude. A skilled healthcare team understands the importance of a positive attitude toward maintaining good health. A study from Yale University demonstrated that positive attitudes about aging could extend one’s life by 7-1/2 years. That’s why nursing home staffs are constantly encouraging residents to stay active, providing comfort during difficult times, and being available for a chat or a friendly smile. They understand that compassion goes a long way in fostering a positive attitude among nursing home residents.

Source: Real Properties in association with IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2017 IlluminAge.