When asked her secret to a long life and happiness, 105-year-old nursing home resident Jessie Jordan said: “Having peace in your heart.” Not every senior will enjoy living in a nursing home, though. Adjusting to life in a nursing home can be challenging. You can help keep your loved one happy by making sure their health needs are met and that they stay active.
Keeping Seniors Happy in Nursing Homes
Assisted living can provide many benefits for residents, including a safe living environment and round-the-clock care. This allows seniors to receive high-quality health care without burdening their families.
There are downsides to nursing homes, though. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that nearly 50% of people in nursing homes were diagnosed with depression in 2011 and 2012.
You can help keep your loved one safe, healthy, and happy by regularly checking that the nursing home staff is meeting all of their health care needs.
Why Is Senior Happiness Important?
Research from around the world suggests that staying happy can greatly impact a senior’s mental and physical health.
Seniors with positive views on aging:
- Reduced their dementia risk by 50%, according to a 2018 study conducted by researchers from Yale, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the National Institute on Aging
- Had a 19% lower mortality rate compared to unhappy seniors, according to research from the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore
- Were 44% more likely to recover from serious disabilities, as noted in a 2012 study from the Yale School of Public Health
How to Keep Seniors Happy in Nursing Homes
Staying involved is the most important thing you can do to keep your senior happy as they live in a nursing home.
A good way to kickstart this process is by helping your loved one as they move into a nursing home facility. That way, they can note any problems to you from the beginning, and you can work to monitor them.
From there, you should encourage your loved ones to build friendships and stay active. Both of these things can help your senior adjust to their new home.
Further, If your loved one must now rely on you for their health care needs, you should make sure they are getting the best services possible by checking up on them regularly.
Here are four ideas you can use to keep your senior happy in a nursing home:
1. Making the Transition Easy
Moving into a nursing home can be stressful in and of itself. For this reason, you can help your senior by ensuring the move goes smoothly.
Some seniors may feel like they can still care for themselves and may not want to leave their homes. Further, those with Alzheimer’s or dementia may not fully understand why they have to move.
According to data published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Psychology, fear of being placed in a nursing home could increase a senior’s risk of suicide.
Here are some ways to make the transition as easy as possible:
- Explain to your loved one why moving into a nursing home will be helpful for them.
- Bring pictures, furniture, and other objects that will make their room feel like home.
- See if the senior’s spouse can make the move with them. According to a 79-year-long Harvard study, close relationships between spouses protected seniors from mental decline and mood changes.
2. Tending to Relationships
Nursing homes provide seniors with the opportunity to build new relationships and strengthen old ones — both of which can improve their health and happiness.
Strong relationships make people happier and also prevent mental and physical decline over time. By living in a nursing home, seniors can make friends with people their own age and even the staff that takes care of them.
Here are a few tips to keep nursing home residents happy in their relationships:
- Encourage them to interact with other residents
- Make a point to visit often
- See if old friends or neighbors can pay them a visit
- Voice any questions or concerns to the staff
3. Participating in Activities
A great way for seniors to build relationships with others is through activities. Regular activities can also help seniors stay in shape, both mentally and physically.
Most nursing homes host activities throughout the day. While not everyone will want to participate, there will usually be an activity that everyone can do. Even seniors suffering from disabilities or illnesses like dementia can participate in some activities.
Notable activities for seniors include:
- Arts and crafts
- Bingo games
- Listening to music
- Petting a dog or cat
As your loved one settles into a nursing home, keep in mind what activities they love to do. Researchers from the University of Memphis note that nursing home residents were happier when they could continue doing hobbies even after moving into a nursing home.
You can also ask nursing home staff members to tailor activities to your loved one’s needs. This can encourage your senior if they won’t participate otherwise.
4. Maintaining Health Care
If a senior must live in a nursing home, chances are they have an illness or disability that requires long-term care. To keep seniors as happy and healthy as possible, these health care needs must be met by their loved ones and the nursing home staff.
Some nursing homes may not be properly equipped to meet all their residents’ needs. Some may neglect their duties or even abuse the residents out of anger or frustration.
In these cases, you may have to step in to ensure the safety of your loved one.
Here is how to make sure your senior is being cared for in a nursing home:
- Regularly visit your loved one and monitor their health. Note any changes in their appearance or behavior. Do they seem scared or confused? Do they have any new cuts, scrapes, or bruises? These could be signs of abuse.
- Voice your concern to members of the staff.
- If things don’t improve, take action. Set up a camera or report suspected abuse to a local or state investigator.
Quality of Life and Happiness Go Hand-In-Hand
Seniors in assisted living can benefit greatly from the help of nursing home staff, other residents, and, especially, family members. By guiding your loved one as they move and regularly checking in with them, you can make sure they remain safe and content.
The best nursing homes will listen to their residents’ concerns — and yours — to make sure everyone is satisfied.
If a nursing home does not meet your needs, consider moving your loved one. Though this may be difficult, it is well worth your time to keep your senior safe.
If you suspect abuse or serious neglect, take immediate action. Make sure your loved one is safe, and report any suspected abuse or neglect.