Living in a long term care environment can be challenging. Being away from familiar sights while coping with a serious illness is hard on anyone. In fact, it’s been estimated that nearly one in five residents of a nursing home suffer from depression, and one in three have depressive symptoms. Understanding the struggle of living in a long term care environment, several long term care facilities have taken steps to enhance the quality of life of their patients to great effect.
Many of the best examples of these little extra steps being taken for patients come from Canada. For instance, it was recently announced that Canada is extending a program designed to help patients of dementia by providing them with iPods and personalized playlists. This comes as research continues to show that in people suffering from cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s, familiar music can trigger memories, enhance present-moment awareness, and help listeners connect with others.
Music is connected to our long-term memories and, with music therapy, patients can enjoy improved moods, physical activity, and improved verbal communication. In short, it can help people feel relaxed and calm in an environment that can otherwise be stressful and intimidating. And all it takes to achieve is a relatively affordable MP3 player, and a quick investigation to see what kind of music to play!
Similarly, an Ontario hospital recently launched the Paws for Healing program, aimed to help reunite a long term care patient and their pets. Therapy animals have been known to help speed up recovery and uplift spirits — and all-the-better if the patient already has an emotional bond with the animal.
Paws for Healing was created in honor of Zachary Noble, a long term care patient at the hospital who recently passed away from lymphoma. Zachary’s caregivers recognized just how much Noble’s spirits were raised by spending time with his dog. In long term care, it’s easy to feel isolated from what was once your normal life. Being able to spend time your fuzzy friends can help battle depression and give you another reason to want to get well soon.
The Hebrew Home at Riverdale, a care facility in New York, is home to a collection of thousands of works of art from renowned contemporary artists. The general idea is simple: some residents can’t go to museums, so for nearly four decades, the facility has been collecting art to bring the museum to the residents. And because the art is open to the public, the Hebrew Home collection helps build a bridge between those living in a long-term care facility and their community. It also provides a topic of conversation for the residents and something to think about besides their time in the facility.
Legal Advances in San Francisco
Last year, San Francisco passed the LGBT Senior Long Term Care Facilities Bill of Rights, which is an ordinance protecting LGBT seniors. Specifically, it helps describe the responsibilities that care facilities have towards their residents, including the need to respect gender identity, preferred names, pronouns, and personal dress.
According to one study by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, nearly 9 out of 10 seniors reported they would feel unsafe being openly LGBT in a long-term care facility because of having witnessed or experienced discrimination in the past. This ordinance comes as one positive step forward to help fight against the kind of heartless discrimination that’s been known to do things like separate same-sex couples into different extended care facilities due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
When you’re in long term care, your only concern should be getting healthy, not battling to preserve your dignity, fighting depression, or dealing with discrimination of any kind. These small steps taken by long term care facilities might not seem like much at first, but they can make a world of difference to the quality of life of someone who’s spent a protracted amount of time in care.