Of the three main strands of wellbeing: physical, mental and emotional, it is arguably emotional that is the most difficult to manage.
Emotional wellbeing is closely linked to resilience – the ability to recover from illness or deal with change or misfortune. There is also a link to how our brain function changes as we get older which can make us more susceptible to depression and mental illness, particularly if there is a genetic susceptibility.
Major life changes, such as moving into residential care can trigger anxiety and depression so programmes that monitor and nurture wellbeing are essential. Sometimes this can be as simple as activities that help people feel active and engaged. Healthy exercise and relationships are essential.
Activities that promote sensory stimulation (such as art and music), reflection and relaxation all help prevent anxiety and depression, and promote wellbeing.
Wellbeing isn’t a simple issue with a single answer. It is very much about individual experience. Care homes need to make full use of specialist support services including physiotherapy, psychotherapy, meditation and mindfulness.
And because it’s about individual experience, any interventions must be tailored to take account of individual cognitive and physical capacity as well as each person’s preferences and wishes. An intervention will have limited benefit if a person doesn’t want to take part or really doesn’t think it can help them. In these cases, it’s better to explore different types of therapy, experiences or activities.
If we look at possibly the simplest measure, exercise, you can see how it affects wellbeing in many ways:
- It can improve sleep patterns
- It can affect levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin, endorphins or stress hormones
- It can distract people from worries
- It can improve people’s perception of being able to cope and help develop new capabilities
- It provides socialisation opportunities
And that’s just one type of intervention. Other interventions that have been proven to aid emotional wellbeing in residential care include reminiscence, pet therapy, gardening, yoga and dance. There are plenty of options available – something to suit everyone, in fact.