The 5 functions of the psychologist in a nursing home
The geriatric residences have been constituted as a very important institutional space to meet some care needs during aging. In this space, psychology has played an important role, as it is a science with very diverse approaches and applications.
In this article we will briefly explain what is the role of psychology in aging and what are some of The main functions that a psychologist can have within a geriatric residence .
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The role of psychology in aging
One of the areas of professional development of psychology is the aging process. This is because the knowledge that psychology generates can help build important tools to enhance the quality of life of older adults , as well as to understand the processes of change as it has done in other life cycles, and to intervene both with the older adult, and in the creation of care models and policies.
Old age had been reserved for medicine because it was understood based on health problems. Thus, interventions were limited to the prevention and eradication of diseases associated with aging. However, and since old age is not a health problem, but rather a life stage Having specific needs, psychology has also generated some tools to satisfy them.
There is even a specialty called gerontopsychology, which is a sub-branch of clinical psychology, focused precisely on the study of this vital process and the development of psychological intervention strategies.
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5 functions of the psychologist in a geriatric residence
Among the strategies that have been created to meet the needs of aging, intervention in institutions (geriatric residences) has been very relevant.
As in much of psychology, This intervention depends a lot on the ability of the professional to empathize with the needs of others , as well as the theoretical knowledge that has acquired and that can help you detect them and meet those needs. Generally, the ultimate purpose of the intervention is to ensure the quality of life of people and strengthen active aging.
Rodríguez, Valderrama and Molina (2010) propose a series of intervention areas and strategies for the institutionalized older adult, in which the role of the psychologist can be fundamental.
Taking into consideration this proposal, we develop five of the functions that a psychologist has within a residence : generate support groups, provide coping strategies for possible challenges, orient the meaning of old age (both to the institution and the family), prevent or treat symptoms of depression, and accompany the approach to death.
1. Generate support groups
The psychologist can act as a facilitator and empower the creation of support networks among older adults. Doing this is important because it increases the sense of accompaniment and recognition through others , which in turn, can prevent depressive symptoms. For this, psychology has generated different strategies, which must be adapted to the situation of each residence and each group of adults.
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2. Provide coping strategies to possible challenges
The psychologist can also make individual interventions aimed at providing emotional support. These interventions can have different objectives, for example, develop assertive communication, work on the control of emotions, follow up on a grieving process, enhance autonomy and self-esteem, and so on. In any case it is important to accompany according to the need detected in each person , and avoid conveying the idea that old age is a problem or a challenge in itself.
3. Orient about the meaning of old age to the institution and the family
The intervention during aging is not limited to adults, it is necessary to give guidance and support to the institution or family members. This is because in some cases, old age is understood as a problem or as a disability, which encourages passivity and poor development of the person's autonomy.
Since 1991, the UN has determined Five efforts to ensure a good quality of life during aging : Dignity, Independence, Self-Realization, Participation and Care; and encouraging them is also the responsibility of psychology professionals.
4. Prevent or treat symptoms of depression or other disorders
As in other life stages, the aging process can be difficult for some people. Old age can generate vulnerability to depressive symptoms if, among other things, the adult's environment has not been able to favor or satisfy some filiation needs. Here the role of psychologist is important because you can both enhance the self-esteem of the adult in individual or group interventions , how to reduce the situation of vulnerability through intervening in the environment (in the residence, in the family, in the community).
5. Accompany the approach to death
For some people, the approach to death can be a very important problem. While old age is assumed as the stage before the end of life, a process of suffering and significant grief can be generated . The psychologist also has the function of accompanying this process within the geriatric institution. To do so, there are many and very different tools, which depend to a large extent on the approach that the professional adopts and on their own emotional capacity to face or accompany death.
- Rodríguez, A., Valderrama, L. and Molina, J. (2010). Psychological intervention in older adults. Psychology from the Caribbean. Universidad del Norte, 25: 246-258.
- Santamaría, J.L. (S / A). The psychologist in the aging process. Old age and quality of life. Retrieved June 5, 2018. Available at //www.copib.es/pdf/Vocalies/Envelliment/El%20rol%20del%20Psicólogo%20en%20el%20Envejecimiento.pdf.