Spiritual Care and Depression -- Posted by hazzanmenes

Depression and the Elderly

Do senior citizens get depressed at senior citizens assisted homes?
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Rob Menes
Chaplain in a Long Term Care facility, cantor, engineer3y
Yes, many senior citizens get depressed in long term care facilities. The reasons are many, but, in many cases, it need not be a chronic condition!

There are spiritual, emotional, and physiological reasons for depression. I prefer to use less-clinical terms such as despair, sadness, etc. since depression has a specific clinical definition (see What Is Depression?)

Most senior citizens in a LTC facility are at the end of their lives: in my facility, the average length of stay is under two years. Many residents know that. They may see their lives as simply waiting for death. They have lost sight of their purpose. They may fear their death, or have anxiety for the future of their family. They may live in physical pain, or they may lament their loss of abilities physical and mental.

Thus, the end is a painful process.

Long term care facilities can do many things to remove the conditions for despair and sadness: 1) provide spiritual care through a trained chaplain, 2) facilitate connections between residents to create a sense of community, 3) deliver programs which engage residents through creative activities in music, art, and exercise, 4) support spiritual and religious activities such as prayer services, meditation, tai chi, etc., 5) deliver educational and challenging discussion groups to engage cognitively-able residents.

We deliver much of the above at my LTC. As a chaplain, I meet with residents individually, sometimes exploring spiritual issues, and sometimes simply singing with them. I lead Interfaith services, and religion-specific services. I Lead a discussion group on “modern ethics.” As much as possible, we seek to engage residents. One thing we have yet to implement is a way to enable residents to be productive for the facility. That is, residents who have found purpose in their lives through giving need an outlet for that, and an outlet which is not artificial. There are so many things that are available to reduce the conditions for depression that there is no reason for this to be a continuing state of being.