Social worker learning about impact of depression, anxiety in LTC residents to prevent agitation

Laura Johnstone spending one-on-one time with residents to learn more about their history

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. – Depression and anxiety are conditions that can lead to responsive behaviours in long-term care residents. A social worker who has joined Riverview Manor’s Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) team is trying to learn more about the impact of these conditions in order to prevent agitation and enhance quality of life.

Social worker Laura Johnstone, pictured above, is working with Riverview Manor’s BSO team.

Laura Johnstone will be working with the BSO team at the Peterborough long-term care home until the end of March to help determine the benefits of adding a social worker to BSO teams in long-term care homes. The position was made available with funding from the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).

Laura says that while depression and anxiety among long-term care residents have been recognized more in recent years, many residents affected by these conditions were never treated due to the stigma attached to the conditions.

“Potentially they were never treated for these issues,” Laura tells The OMNIway. “When they come to long-term care it’s a huge transition. It’s a lot of loss. A loss independence, loss of family connections, loss of community connections, and it people come depressed because the change is tremendous.”

If residents living with depression or anxiety also have dementia, they cannot understand where they are or why they’re in a long-term care home, so these conditions become exacerbated, Laura says.

By having a social worker on board, the BSO team is hoping to discover preventative measures to stem responsive behaviours. Laura is working with residents to learn about their lives to better understand residents and the conditions they may live with, including anxiety and depression.

“One of the things we are trying to do is spend time with those residents – one-on-one time spent talking with them and trying to understand them,” she says.

BSO is a provincial initiative to help enhance quality of life for seniors affected by dementia and other conditions that cause agitation. The funding, which is provided to long-term care homes through Ontario’s 14 Local Health Integration Networks, is largely put towards staff education.

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