While social interaction is essential to mental health, building and maintaining relationships requires work. A close-knit circle of friends can offer a sense of belonging, purpose, and support that may help reduce stress and improve mood. In addition, engaging in social activities can be like exercises for the brain, improving cognitive function and lowering the risk of dementia.
Our research showed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, caregiver concerns about residents’ depressed mood, loneliness, and anxiety doubled. Modifiable factors such as continued resident access to counseling services and keeping caregivers informed and involved in resident care reduced the risk of these concerns.
This means that people with mental health conditions, including those in assisted living, need to make their friends, family, and other supports aware of their condition and what it means for them. This psychoeducation could also provide accurate expectations of recovery and better prepare those around them to understand and respond to symptoms.
Those who are lifelong learners find the process of learning new things to be exciting. They can build connections with others who share the same interests, which is great for their mental health. It also gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Lifelong learning is essential in a person’s professional career, especially in the healthcare sector. Studies indicate that a person’s willingness to be a lifelong learner correlates with their ability to maintain their expertise and acquire new knowledge.
Hojat and colleagues (4) defined the orientation toward lifelong learning as an attribute comprising four key concepts:
- Self-initiated activities.
- Information-seeking skills.
- Sustained motivation to learn.
- The ability to identify one’s own learning needs.
This definition guided the selection of studies for this systematic review that used the 14-item Jefferson Scale (Jeff SPLL) or student variants to assess the orientation toward lifelong learning among health professionals at different points in their education and careers.
Depression is a common condition among seniors, and isolation can exacerbate its symptoms. The importance of regular contact with friends and family for mental health is well established. Loneliness and social isolation can also impact hopelessness, happiness, a sense of purpose in life, and other factors influencing a person’s mood.
Research from one study found that a rushed or unplanned move into an assisted living Florida facility can negatively affect a resident’s mental health. This study’s participants indicated that a comprehensive welcome package, including daily routines and expectations, is essential.
Caregivers’ concerns about their residents’ depressed mood, loneliness, and anxiety increased during Wave 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, modifiable factors such as residents’ access to counseling services and caregivers’ involvement in their resident’s mental health care, both pre-and post-pandemic, were necessary buffers of these relationships. Additionally, offline contacts buffered the relationship between days of objective isolation and mental health outcomes.
Access to Mental Health Care
People with easy access to mental health care will likely live healthier lives. They are less likely to suffer from debilitating mental health problems and will be able to seek professional help in time to prevent them from getting worse. Moreover, they will better cope with stressful situations and have an easier time at work.
Many people who have mental health issues are unable to get the care they need, whether because they don’t know what to do or are unable to afford it. This is a problem that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to more people seeking mental health services.
Individual attributes and beliefs have also been found to affect access to healthcare services, specifically for people with mental health conditions. These include fear of being stigmatized or disempowered by a diagnosis and the belief that the condition isn’t as serious as physical illnesses (DIXONWOODS2005). Barriers to healthcare access have also been linked to a lack of knowledge about available services or treatment options (DENNIS2006, PRINS2008, RODRIGUEZ2009, SCHEPPERS2006, VANVOORHES2007). In addition, the fact that individuals have difficulty finding out about available treatments can make them reluctant to seek treatment (2008). This can be overcome by integrating behavioral health into primary medical practices.