As we age, we can become more susceptible to depression. Through the years, we lose friends and family or even experience the loss of a spouse and chronic health problems can begin accumulating. Our minds and schedules, once heavily occupied by careers, raising families and maintaining homes, are now free to ponder our purpose. The people we used to see daily may not come around as much anymore, if at all. And all of this can lead us toward the profound and prolonged sense of sadness, hopelessness and despair known as depression. Armed with this information, there are ways we can help our aging loved ones prevent or cope with depression. One way is to consider the benefits of a senior living community, as compared to staying home alone and in isolation. Here are five ways assisted living facilities can help decreases depression in older adults:
1. Offering a Community
It’s right there in the name. Senior living communities, as they are often called, can offer the benefit of companionship above all else. It’s an opportunity for older adults to live their later years amongst their peers, in a place where friends and neighbors are just steps away. While they still have the privacy of their own apartment, other people who know exactly what they are going through live beside them day in and day out. They look out for each other, socialize and make friends with similar interests, or with those who can introduce them to something new. This helps ward off loneliness and isolation, which are a huge risk factor for depression in the elderly.
2. Make Life Accessible
In addition to having friends close by, senior communities make life accessible. When living at home, it can become difficult getting around. Maybe they can no longer navigate their multi-level home, or have trouble getting in and out of the bathtub or shower. Perhaps they can no longer drive, so buying groceries and running errands becomes problematic. These limitations can also lead to severe isolation. Assisted living communities are made with seniors’ needs in mind. The showers are easy to manage, with grab bars and emergency call buttons. Stairs no longer pose a problem, with single-floor apartments, and elevators to navigate upper floors of the community. Many communities have shuttle buses they use to take residents shopping, to doctor’s appointments or on excursions.
3. Planning Activities
Assisted living communities have a roster of activities each day. Those who keep busy and physically active have a better chance of keeping depression at bay. In a community, your loved can take part in a wide variety of activities that are generally offered on site — or on excursions or day trips off site — all appropriate to their condition, abilities and interests. By participating, they may develop new hobbies or refocus on an old one. They might make new friends, too! And, by staying physical and mental active, you can ward off depression and find new purpose in life.
4. Keeping Watchful Eyes
When a loved one lives alone, it's not uncommon to visit often to keep an eye on them, but life can get in the way. With a career, family or other responsibilities, it can be a juggling act to balance the changing needs of a loved one living alone with other things. In an assisted living setting, there are staff members like caretakers, nursing staff, wait staff and activity directors who see them daily. It’s their job, in one way or another, to care for your loved one. If mom or dad experience a slight change in attitude, appetite or social inclinations, they’ll notice. Having people around to notice the warning signs of these changes allows them to intervene quickly and help your parent live a life of purpose and fulfillment.
5. Providing Purpose
Another way assisted living facilities can decrease depression in older adults is by helping them find a sense of purpose. They can join a committee (or start one), guide a new resident through their acclimation process, take a class or teach one. When they feel needed, when their presence is expected somewhere, they are less likely to become depressed.