Have you ever had a day when you looked great but felt depressed? Or you looked your worst but felt great? Perception of self-image is stronger than actual self-image with determining our emotions. Would you be able to survive an entire day, week or month without looking into a mirror?

Well, our long-term residents often face this reality. If your long-term residents are wheelchair bound, check whether they are able to see themselves in the mirrors available in their bathrooms or bedrooms. This possibility applies to all skilled nursing facilities, new and/or old construction.

I would love to start gathering more data to see if there is a direct correlation between depression and the elderly, and their self-image perceptions. Expanding on this idea further, are their self-image perceptions directly linked to how often and/or access to viewing themselves in a mirror? This is a great opportunity for therapists (and everyone else) to directly address the access to mirrors issue.

Physical Therapy, when working on standing tolerance, do you perform this task at sink-side or with a mirror present to correct posture? Occupational therapy, does the patient need better access through (nursing) home modifications or assistive hand-held mirrors?

Depression in the elderly is a major concern for all of long-term care professionals and healthcare providers. We try to provide better resources and services through psychology services, medications, questionnaires, pain management and so on. However, I think everyone would agree that attitude and perception also contribute to the issues surrounding depression.

So, while a mirror might not sound like a big deal, it may completely improve a person’s general attitude and self-image if they feel better about themselves.

Besides, who is the most important employee of the nursing home? It’s not therapy — it’s the hairdresser!

Shelly Mesure (“measure”), MS, OTR/L, is the senior vice president of Orchestrall Rehab Solutions and owner of A Mesured Solution Inc., a rehabilitation management consultancy with clients nationwide. A former corporate and program director for major long-term care providers, she is a veteran speaker and writer on therapy and reimbursement issues.