Improving Mental Health in the Aged Care Sector

Can furnishings help improve the overall mental health of residents?

 

Importance of Mental Health

Mental Health is one of the most important aspects of our lives as it affects our daily interactions. It is the foundation of our overall health and wellbeing, it influences our ability to handle stress, make decisions, form and maintain relationships, and navigate challenges.

Taking care of our Mental health plays a significant role on having a balanced fulfilling life. It allows us to be productive and help combat physical health problems that are linked to mental health conditions.

According to the World Health Organisation, Depression is one of the leading causes of disability – consequently resulting in premature death through suicide within the younger generations.

Depression is also prevalent in the Aged Care sector. As studies have shown, in Australia nearly 45% of newly admitted residents have shown symptoms of depression, as do more than half of the entirety of permanent aged care residents.

 

Improving mental health in the aged care sector

Counselling and psychotherapy have been effective treatments for majority of mental health conditions. However, due to staff shortages and the increase of demand and the ageing Australian population, current government fundings aren’t enough, causing this method to be unviable for most homes. Recent research has also stated that the psychosocial aspect of care has often been overlooked in the aged care system, emphasising the need to change and give importance to the emotional support and social needs of our senior citizens.

There are other alternative cost-effective methods available for nursing homes across the country. Studies have shown that simply talking to someone can help people with depression, as it helps alleviate anxiety by making them feel less alone. Experts have said that talking can often provide stress relief and lighten the load of concern that one might be having.

Concept aged care furnishing at Quicksew Bathurst Showroom

 

Furniture choice—outlined to be particularly effective—can play a huge role in creating a warm and welcoming environment for residents. It creates a sense of familiarity, allowing them to feel more confident, and allows residents with dementia to use and enjoy spaces that are familiar to them from their early life.

Furniture arrangement can encourage conversation amongst the residents, which creates an environment where aged care residents can socialize in a comfortable, home-like space, allowing residents to talk and interact with one another.

Study has shown that sunlight can also help improve mental health. This method is called “Light Therapy”. According to Harvard Health, exposure to a light source for at least 30 minutes every morning can be an effective method of treating depression. On sunny days, the sun is bright enough to give off a therapeutic effect. Even for aged care residents that have mobility issues, sitting outside or by a window indoors can make a difference on their mood.

Villawood Aged Care | Curtains by Quicksew

 

Quicksew Suggestions

Now that we’ve established the importance of mental health and cost-effective methods of improving mental health in aged care facilities, let’s dive in on choosing the right furnishings that can help create a welcoming and comfortable environment.

At Quicksew, we believe in finding the balance between functionality, comfortability, compliance, and aesthetics.

 

Colour Scheme/Style

Using a single style or colour can easily create a bland environment and hospital-like look. Trying to create a home- or hotel-like feel when choosing window furnishings and furniture to allow residents to feel comfortable and confident.

With the Marco Polo Woonona Aged Care Centre, we curated each room with different styles, colours, and textures to make each space a different experience.

Colour boards by Quicksew for Marco Polo Aged Care

 

Marco Polo Aged Care | Styled and furnished by Quicksew

 

Decorating walls with artworks, paintings, or murals can effectively create a ‘home feel’ to the facility, as well as appropriately chosen furniture that ties with the overall décor of the facility help create a warm inviting environment. Personalised spaces help residents feel more at home rather than institutionalized.

 

Furniture Arrangement

Beautiful patterns, colour palettes, and textures are only as good as where and when they are used. If furniture arrangement and space utilisation is poor, a room can still feel overwhelming and far from feeling like home.

Effective space utilisation and arrangement can help residents interpret their environment quicker and better because each room gain a distinctive character and feel. Each space’s intended purpose is identifiable at a glance, helping residents relax immediately and spend less time figuring out the room.

Concept aged care furnishing at Quicksew Bathurst Showroom

 

Seating

It is recommended for nursing homes to offer a variety of seating options to cater to different preferences of their residents. Comfortable and ergonomic chairs with high backs and proper lumbar support that encourages good posture would be an optimal choice for seating – allowing residents to comfortably socialise with one another.

Concept aged care furnishing at Quicksew Bathurst Showroom

 

Natural Light

As mentioned earlier, maximising natural light by arranging furniture in a manner that takes advantage of windows that span towards outdoor greenery and gardens is an effective way of improving mental health among the residents (light therapy). We will be providing a more in-depth analysis of this subject in a separate blog, so stay tuned!

Villawood Aged Care | Furnishings by Quicksew

 

Compliance

Due to covid, there has been heightened awareness regarding infection control. Furnishings used in aged care facilities must adhere to compliance regulation that are in place to ensure the quality and safety of the care and services that facilities provide.

For over 45 years, Quicksew has helped hundreds of aged care facilities become and stay compliant. In a separate blog, we lay out the various regulations surrounding aged care furnishings and how to ensure your facility is compliant. Stay tuned!

 

Conclusion

Listed above are some of the ways aged care facilities can help improve mental health of their residents at nursing homes. However, it is crucial important to highlight that these suggestions serve as a step towards understanding and addressing mental health concerns and should not be regarded as an immediate solution.

Mental health has such complex issues that are deeply rooted and multi-faceted. It is important to recognise that improving mental health requires a holistic and ongoing effort that encompasses professional guidance, staff, societal support, and, at times, medicinal intervention. This blog aims to start a discussion as a starting point for further exploration. Commitment to a comprehensive and sustained improvement effort would still be the overarching contributor towards the improvement of the mental well-being of residents in nursing homes.

 

 


 

References

Althoff, T., Clark, K., & Leskovic, J. (2016). Large-scale Analysis of Counseling Conversations: An Application of Natural Language Processing to Mental Health . 463–476. https://doi.org/10.1162/tacl_a_00111

Anwar, B. (2021, November 24). Why is Mental Health Important? Talkspace. https://www.talkspace.com/blog/why-is-mental-health-important/

Belot, H. (2023, April 18). Aged care sector warns Albanese government’s planned $4.8bn spend not enough to keep homes open. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/apr/19/aged-care-sector-warns-albanese-governments-planned-48bn-spend-not-enough-to-keep-homes-open

Beyond Blue. (2022). What is mental health - Beyond Blue. Www.beyondblue.org.au. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/mental-health/what-is-mental-health

Corliss, J. (2022, October 28). Light therapy: Not just for seasonal depression? Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/light-therapy-not-just-for-seasonal-depression-202210282840#:~:text=Light%20therapy%20%E2%80%94%20which%20involves%20sitting

Depression in residential aged care 2008-2012, Summary - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2013, October 16). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/aged-care/depression-in-residential-aged-care-2008-2012/contents/summary

Elliott, K.-E. J., Rodwell, J., & Martin, A. J. (2017). Aged care nurses’ job control influence satisfaction and mental health. Journal of Nursing Management, 25(7), 558–568. https://doi.org/10.1111/jonm.12493

Infection Control in Soft Furnishings. (2020, March 16). Seating Matters. https://www.seatingmatters.com.au/infection-control-in-soft-furnishings

Karah. (2023a, January 4). Complying with the Australian Aged Care Quality Standards: 6 ways furniture helps improve your service environment. FHG Furniture. https://fhg.com.au/aged-care-quality-standards/

Karah. (2023b, January 5). Aged Care Upholstery: 5 Tips for Choosing Fabric to Keep Aged Care Furniture Clean. FHG Furniture. https://fhg.com.au/aged-care-upholstery-fabric/

Mental Health Australia. (2019). Mental Health Australia Submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/system/files/2020-07/AWF.600.00720.0001_0.pdf

Polacsek, M., & Woolford, M. (2022). Strategies to support older adults’ mental health during the transition into residential aged care: a qualitative study of multiple stakeholder perspectives. BMC Geriatrics, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-022-02859-1

World Health Organization. (2023). Mental Health. WHO. https://www.who.int/health-topics/mental-health#tab=tab_1

 

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