A Conversation About Mental Health in LTC – The World According to Dr. El

Dr El

I had the pleasure of being interviewed recently by Susan Ryan, Senior Director of The Green House Project, for her Elevate Eldercare Podcast. As I pointed out to him, what could be better than talking to someone nice and knowledgeable about something I’ve been obsessed with for over 20 years?

We talked about the experiences that inform my thinking about long-term care, and we touched on topics such as the disconnect between mental and physical health, the hurt feelings and burnout of staff exacerbated by the pandemic, and the ways to better support staff, families and facilities. in their efforts to provide quality care.

Readers can listen to the podcast hereand I would like to expand in this column on some of the points raised in the conversation.

First, let me draw attention to the fact that there are not many mental health professionals in long-term care facilities; it is above all a medical environment.

The voices we hear about care are usually those of doctors and nurses and, increasingly, health care aides. On the business and policy side, we are informed by CEOs, heads of professional organizations, health economists and policy makers. Families and resident advocates have a place at the table.

But there is less often a mental health perspective on long-term care, especially from those embedded in nursing home teams.

However, many of the issues facing LTC can be mitigated by using a mental health lens: staff burnout, unattractive facility cultures, family distress, poor end-of-life care, growing population of residents with serious mental illness, etc.

One of the topics we covered on the podcast, for example, was my efforts to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder after working in the epicenter of the pandemic. Every time I write or speak about it, someone says to me afterwards, “I just realized I have PTSD” or “I feel seen. Thank you.” As facilities seek to address ongoing staff burnout, keep in mind that acknowledgment and witnessing are essential parts of how people heal from trauma and regain confidence in the leadership.

Susan Ryan and I also discussed ways to overcome the information disconnect between leaders and employees, which can affect quality, cost of care, and staff retention. Bridging the hierarchy and integrating the “voice of workers” can lead to improved and streamlined processes.

One of the techniques I mentioned was Project Sleepover, where leaders spend a night in their facilities, interact with residents, staff, and families, and see what’s happening on the front lines of their organization. A psychological question for any leader reluctant to do so might be, “What am I afraid of?

This is a legitimate query worth investigating. How long would it take? Loss of control? Are we afraid that the installation will be so dreadful that one night would be unbearable? Do we want to avoid knowing that this is the case?

Dig deep and then weigh these factors against the benefits of sleeping, such as boosting morale and discovering needed changes that only leaders can make. For a facility to operate successfully, it is essential that there is a flow of information from the leaders to the front lines and vice versa. Develop as many ways as possible to communicate with employees and learn from them.

Our discussion focused on incorporating a psychological approach into working with teams and families to reduce turnover, family distress and communication issues, with many suggestions offered. We have also mentioned the limitations of a punitive approach to nursing home reform.

If ideas about Elevate Eldercare Podcast intrigue you, note that I will delve into some of them in McKnight’s free April 5 long-term care webinar,”Creating well-being, reducing costs: targeting the emotional health of residents, staff and families.”

As the industry goes through a time of change, I hope readers will take the opportunity to hear from direct care workers and consider the benefits of better integrating mental health supports into all aspects of care. long term.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., author of The Resident’s Guideis a Excellence Award Winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She is also a Bronze medal of the best blog in the American Society of Business Publication Editors national competition and a Gold medal in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category in their Midwest Regional contest. To contact her for speaking engagements, visit her at EleanorFeldmanBarbera.com.

The opinions expressed in McKnight Long Term Care News guest submissions are those of the author and not necessarily those of McKnight Long Term Care News or its editors.

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