Nourish Logo

The UK’s population is growing rapidly, and the over 60s make up over 20% of us. With people living longer, there is expected to be over 3 million people aged 85+ by 2041. With this in mind, the growing number of elderly people living in residential care homes is also set to increase dramatically, but are they getting the quality of life they deserve in social care?

The ever-growing population means an increasing demand on the social care sector, and while we often think of care in a physical sense, mental health care is of equal importance and can often be overlooked due to not recognising the signs. This is something that could be said for society in general, and in recent years there has been a huge emphasis on recognising mental health and just how big an impact it can have on our lives.

The World Health Organisation reported that around 15% of those aged 60+ suffer from a mental disorder and have said that mental health problems are often under-identified by healthcare professionals as well as older people themselves, as the stigma surrounding these conditions contribute to making people reluctant to seek help.

Those in care homes may be more far more susceptible to these challenges for a number of reasons. Depression and loneliness are extremely common in the elderly, and being in an unfamiliar setting or environment can often be distressing (particularly for those who also have Dementia), so that initial transition from independent life into a social care setting is one of the most important times to be conscious of the possible signs of declining mental health.

Despite the fact we’re all living longer and staying active into later life, there is still a stigma around getting older. This is not something that should be feared, and the care that is provided to the elderly should be reflecting this key message. I’m sure most of us would struggle with the thought of getting older if it means we lose the ability to do certain things independently, which is why it is important that those in care experience very the best quality of life possible, maintaining both their dignity and their happiness.

This is best achieved through a person-centred approach to care. The person-centred approach is all about understanding the individuals’ needs and providing a unique care routine that works for them, rather than treating everyone the same. What works for one person may not for another, so here are five ways you can help improve the mental health and well-being in elderly care homes

1. Create meaningful and engaging activities

The best way to keep the mind healthy is to keep it stimulated and active, which is why it’s so incredibly important to encourage elderly residents to participate in a number of activities throughout their week. A sign that they might not be feeling themselves is a sudden disinterest in socialising, engaging in activities or doing things they usually enjoy, so if you notice someone is not joining in as much, consider why that is and think about how you could shake up their routine.

Better still, speak to them and find out what things they would enjoy or are in the mood to do. Activities should be of genuine personal interest to individuals in order to really enrich their lives, and what one person likes, the other may not. For example, some activities on offer may not be suitable for some people with physical or learning difficulties, so it’s important to come up with a range of different activities that can be enjoyed by all.

2. Embracing personal identity and growth

Just because someone has moved into a social care setting, doesn’t mean they instantly lose their own individualism and identity, it’s important for carers to strongly encourage those they support to continue to embrace their personal identity.

If you want to improve mental health and well-being in elderly care homes, then simply having meaningful conversations about someone’s past, looking through old photos, and sharing stories with them, will allow carers to connect with those they support on a much deeper level; as a person rather than a “patient”. By finding out more about someone’s personal history and life, carers can better cater to their individual needs in care, and allow them to feel like they are still living their own life or have a sense of independence.

Dignity is extremely important to identity, and elderly people in care should be encouraged to do as much for themselves as possible, wherever possible, and this can be as simple as picking out their clothing and deciding what they want to do or eat that day.

3. Helping those in your care stay social

Relationships are an important, if not an integral, part of who we are, and therefore play a huge role in the improvement of mental health and well-being in elderly care homes. As we have mentioned, loneliness is one of the primary causes of depression in the elderly population, and for some, their carer may be the only person they see or speak to all day. Those in residential care should be encouraged to stay social as often as possible, with visits from family and friends, or speaking on the phone/video calling if they are not able to come in person.

Having familiar faces in a care setting can be extremely helpful for someone trying to relax and feel more at ease, especially if they are in a new environment for the first time. It’s good to encourage friendships with others in care, and to form bonds with people they have daily interactions with. If someone suddenly stops wanting visitors or to interact and engage with other residents, this is almost definitely a sign that they are not quite feeling themselves or are feeling anxious or and depressed.

4. Recognise and record physical pain

If someone is dealing with pain physically, this often affects the mind too. It is important to be incredibly thorough when checking in with those you support, as pain may not simply and clearly present itself to the eye. A lot of people can be embarrassed about an issue or not want to speak up and cause a fuss, so be sure to talk to them, and encourage them to open up about any discomfort they may be experiencing.

It is also really important to take physical or digital notes on any physical ailments, so that the right care can be provided and you can allow them to be seen by a healthcare professional if needed. This means you can tailor the care they receive and any activities they do to ensure maximum comfort and well-being.

5. Help to track/log mood

Everyone’s mood fluctuates, and this could be for a number of reasons which are all very normal. It could be they’re simply not a morning person or they get cranky when they’re hungry, but it’s important to recognise when dips in mood could be an indication of something more serious.

In order to improve mental health and well-being in elderly care homes, it’s worth keeping track and logging the changing moods of the people you support. In doing so, you can gain a deeper understanding of trends (low mood linked to medication, for example), or whether there is something else that needs to be addressed.

Depression can present itself in many different ways which can often be so subtle that they get missed entirely. A person-centred approach to care requires carers to really get to know and understand the individual needs of those they support, so that they can quickly notice personality changes that might be a sign of depression or other mental health issues.

Improving mental health in your care home

Those are our 5 ways to improve mental health and well-being in elderly care homes. At Nourish, we’re all about keeping people connected and promoting person-centered care. For more information on how we can help improve the health and wellbeing in your care homes, get in touch with the team or book a demo.

At first glance mental capacity assessments and the Mental Capacity Act can seem fairly daunting concepts to get to grips with. However, the subject really isn’t as complicated as it might seem on the surface and most of the content covers actions and activities you’d recognise from your own best practice as a care provider.

This article will help you to understand what mental capacity is, what the Mental Capacity Act is, work out when you should perform an assess­ment, why they need to be performed, how you do them and who in a care setting is best placed to get involved.

What is mental capacity?

Mental capacity isn’t a state which is all-or-nothing. Commonly people feel that diagnoses such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or learning disabilities – even heightened levels of frailty, automatically mean someone lacks the capacity to make their own decisions. This is not always the case!

Mental capacity is defined as the “ability to make your own decisions” and  can be broken down down into four main questions:

What is the Mental Capacity Act?

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (also known as the MCA) is an act designed to help protect and empower people who might lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care and treatment.

When should you perform a mental capacity assessment?

It’s not easy to ensure that someone isn’t wrongly stopped from making decisions that are rightfully theirs to make. Nevertheless, a person needs to be protected from making decisions when they don’t have the capacity.

Before you decide that an individual lacks capacity to make a decision for themselves, you need to ensure that you’ve:

When should someone’s mental capacity be assessed?

Someone’s mental capacity needs to be assessed when they are:

How can you assess someone’s capacity?

The Mental Capacity Act puts forth a two-stage test you can perform in order to ascertain a person’s capacity. This is called the, “2 stage test” and consists of:

Remember someone’s mental capacity can fluctuate, therefore you need to make sure you allow the person time to make a decision themselves. The best way to do this practically is to start a conversation. Ask that person how they got to that particular decision. Remember that they might need more information and so you need to be ready to provide that if at all possible.­

Who should asses someone’s mental capacity?

In a care setting this will typically be carers who are directly concerned with the person at the time. This means that multiple care team members and even teams can become involved in the assessment. However, this isn’t a negative factor, as this will allow a broader time spectrum to be taken into account and how a person’s capacity varies over time. If a care worker feels that they’re following the care plan and have a, “reasonable belief” that the person lacks capacity to make specific decisions they need to make the assessment – this could be anything from accepting food to personal care. This means that their care plans need to be created collaboratively with the person, who agrees to them or an assessment must be made of their capacity to decide if they refuse specific care interventions.

How can Nourish help care teams with mental capacity assessments?

Nourish empowers care workers by providing them with an easy way to plan, record and manage care. This means that carers can easily work with people on their care plans and identify whether they have the capacity to make choices about their particular set of care interventions.

For more information on Nourish, then please get in touch – our team of experts are always happy to help.