I've developed a set of suggestions for working with "challenging," anxious residents, who can disrupt everyone around them. If caregivers don't have sound strategies like these, patients, caregivers and others will suffer.
Those of us in long-term care have undoubtedly witnessed incidents where residents become agitated and staff members don't have the tools to prevent or manage their distress. Unfortunately, psychologists — who could offer such tools — are largely limited in the current reimbursement model to providing individual services to cognitively intact residents.
Many of us in long-term care think of our jobs as a calling. We handle the day-to-day tasks and the business as usual but also get a lot of energy and joy out of taking our work one step further. Here are some actions I've taken that have enriched my patients and my role as a psychologist.
As a psychologist consulting in long-term care facilities, I provided a lot more than I was paid for, because it was needed. But there was much more help that I didn't offer, not only because I wasn't paid for it, but also because the organization wasn't structured to accept this type of assistance.
Nearly one in seven nursing home residents is now under the age of 65, and the number could rise. That's creating challenges for caregiving staffs that could blossom into big problems — if caregivers don't adapt better. Luckily, there's help.
If there is anyone who knows how to get inside the head of a troubled long-term care resident, it is Eleanor Feldman Barbera. Better than that is the fact that this talented nursing home psychologist is willing to share what she knows.
More attention should be paid to nursing home residents' mental health, an important but often overlooked aspect of care.