Maintaining good mental health in older adults can be tricky, especially when adjusting to life in a nursing home facility or dealing with conditions such as dementia.
Even worse, some aging adults may fall victim to nursing home abuse, which might not always leave marks. Verbal or emotional abuse may result in long-term health issues such as depression or anxiety.
While this does not certainly mean that nursing homes are bad for the elderly, it’s crucial to understand how the living condition may mentally or emotionally impact the life of your loved one. Here are some psychological effects of nursing homes on the elderly.
Psychological Effects of Nursing Homes on the Elderly
1. Loneliness and Isolation
Although moving into a nursing home may improve the healthcare provided to the elderly, it is not easy to separate them from their family and loved ones. Older adults may still crave rapport, being a part of a community outside their nursing home. Living in a nursing home can cause them to feel lonely and isolated.
Although they live with other older adults in the same situation, some lack the courage to create interpersonal relationships. It isn’t easy for aging adults to start new friendships and usually need the help of nursing staff to do so.
What’s more, they spend most of the time with the nursing staff, who themselves are also busy with other duties. Sadly, loneliness can cause severe mental problems such as depression.
Moving into a new place doesn’t always feel comfortable, especially a new home with many strangers. It isn’t easy for the elderly to leave a place they have lived in for decades and be away from their families. Besides, they will be living in a facility where they will be taken care of by people they don’t know or have never met.
Some older adults can be trustful, but some are not. So, it’s normal for your elderly parent to be a bit anxious or grumpy when they first move into a nursing home.
3. Loss of Power and Control
Some aging adults, particularly those who were used to being independent, may not be happy going into a nursing home. They don’t have as much freedom and independence there as they used to have in their own homes. This time, they will not be in control of their life since they have no option but to abide by the rules and regulations of the nursing homes.
Most nursing homes may try to do their best to offer a friendly atmosphere for the elderly, but not to the point that older adults can make their own decisions or follow their emotions. Since they are regarded vulnerable in this situation, they rely on the help of nurses and physicians in the facility. However, some older adults are likely to feel somewhat depleted being in this situation.
4. Loss of Habitual Activities
When you place your elderly in a nursing home, it changes their environment and movement. Whatever the chores they used to do back at home, such as cleaning, cooking, or gardening, they can longer do them as much or may even not do them at all in a nursing home.
In most cases, this happens if the elderly is suffering from a health condition, incapacitated, or bedridden. It’s not easy for them to desert doing what they happily did back at home.
Although most nursing homes offer social and recreational activities on a positive note, it’s not the same as doing things they used to do at their homes. Unfortunately, this may cause them to feel unmotivated or unhappy.
What Can Be Done to Improve the Psychological State of the Elderly Living in Nursing Homes?
The elderly’s mental health may be affected by their stay in nursing homes. But luckily, there are plenty of steps older adults can take to stay as healthy as possible. For instance, there are clinical interventions done through therapy or counseling and various activities that the elderly can engage in to improve their overall psychological state.
Some of them include:
- Being physically active
- Playing mentally-challenging games
- Starting a new hobby
- Connecting with family and friends
- Reaching out to social workers and psychologists
In addition, if your loved one has suffered from emotional nursing home abuse, be sure to report it as soon as possible. Filing a case can ensure that the perpetrator is brought to book and help your loved one recover.
FAQs on Psychological Effects of Nursing Homes on the Elderly
Do Nursing Homes Provide Mental Health Services to the Elderly?
Although some nursing homes may not have access to mental health providers, they can connect your elderly with psychologists, medications, ombudspersons, or social workers who can help improve their mental health. A social worker or ombudsman can also connect nursing home residents with mental health resources within the community if needed.
What Can I Do If My Elderly Parent Was Mentally Abused in a Nursing Home?
You can take a few actions if your loved one is a victim of mental or emotional nursing home abuse.
First, report to a relevant authority such as Adult Protective Services (APS) or an ombudsman. When you report, the authority will take action, and the abuser may end up in jail.
Second, ensure your loved one receives the mental health care they require to recover. Speaking with a psychologist or social worker may fuel their recovery.
Finally, reach out to a professional nurse home abuse attorney. Your loved one might qualify for financial compensation to cover medical bills arising from the abuse.
Are Mental Health Problems Common Among the Elderly in Nursing Homes?
Approximately 60% of nursing home residents have one or more mental health issues. The most common problems are dementia, severe mental illness, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and substance use disorders.
A nursing home is not a bad place for your elderly parent. In fact, these facilities allow older adults to live a much better life. They have access to good healthcare and other things some family members may no longer provide.
However, separation of the elderly from their homes and loved ones during nursing home placement may have a huge impact on their mental and emotional health, with significant psychological effects.
Mental health problems may not always be avoidable, but the good news is that they can be treated and resolved. All it takes is lots of patience, compassion, and determination.