Nursing homes have become a very important institutional space to meet certain care needs during aging. In this space, psychology has played an important role, because 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 the main functions that a psychologist can have in a retirement home.
The role of psychology in aging
One of the areas of professional development in psychology is the aging process. It is because of the knowledge that psychology generates they can help create important tools to improve the quality of life of older people, As well as to understand the processes of change as it has done in other life cycles, and to intervene both with the elderly and in the creation of models and policies of care.
Old age was reserved for medicine because it is understood on the basis of health problems. Thus, interventions were limited to the prevention and eradication of diseases associated with aging. However, and because old age is not a health problem, but a vital stage who has specific needs, psychology has also generated tools to meet 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.
5 functions of the psychologist in a geriatric residence
Among the strategies that have been developed to meet the needs of aging, intervention in institutions (nursing homes) has been very relevant.
As in much of psychology, this intervention depends very much on the professional’s ability to understand the needs of others, As well as the theoretical knowledge that you have acquired that can help you detect them and meet those needs. In general, the ultimate goal of the intervention is to ensure the quality of life of people and to reinforce active aging.
Rodríguez, Valderrama and Molina (2010) propose a series of areas and intervention strategies for institutionalized older people, in which the role of the psychologist can be fundamental.
Taking this proposal into account, we develop five of the functions of a psychologist within a residency: Create support groups, propose strategies to adapt to possible challenges, guide on the meaning of old age (both in institutions and in the family), prevent or treat symptoms of depression and support the approach to the death.
1. Create support groups
The psychologist can act as a facilitator and promote the creation of support networks in the elderly. Doing this is important because it increases the feeling of support and recognition by others, Which, in turn, can prevent depressive symptoms. This is why psychology has generated different strategies, which must be adapted to the situation of each residence and each group of adults.
2. Provide adaptation strategies to possible challenges
The psychologist can also make individual interventions aimed at providing emotional support. These interventions can have different objectives, for example, to develop an assertive communication, to work on the control of the emotions, to monitor a grieving process, to strengthen autonomy and self-esteem, etc. Anyway it is important to support 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. Orientation on the meaning of old age in the institution and the family
Intervention during aging is not limited to adults, it is necessary to provide advice and support to the institution or to relatives. Indeed, in certain cases, old age is understood as a problem or as a handicap, which favors passivity and the underdevelopment of the autonomy of the person.
Since 1991, the UN has determined 5h00 efforts to ensure a good quality of life during aging: Dignity, independence, self-realization, participation and care; and promoting it is also the responsibility of psychology professionals.
4. Prevent or treat symptoms of depression or other disorders
As with other vital stages, the aging process can be difficult for some people. Old age can lead to vulnerability to depressive symptoms if, among other things, the adult environment has not been able to foster or meet certain affiliation needs. Here, the role of the psychologist is important because you can both improve self-esteem in adults during individual or group interventions, How to reduce the situation of vulnerability by intervening in the environment (at home, in the family, in the community).
5. Support the approach of death
For some people, the approach of death can be a very big problem. As old age is considered the stage before the end of life, a significant process of suffering and grief can be generated. The role of the psychologist is also to support this process within the geriatric establishment. There are many, many different tools to achieve this, which largely depend on the approach taken by the professional and on his or her own emotional capacity to cope with or accompany death.
- Rodríguez, A., Valderrama, L. and Molina, J. (2010). Psychological intervention in the elderly. Caribbean Psychology. University of the North, 25: 246-258.
- Santamaría, JL (S / A). The psychologist in the aging process. Old age and quality of life. Accessed June 5, 2018.Available at http://www.copib.es/pdf/Vocalies/Envelliment/El%20rol%20del%20Psicólogo%20en%20el%20Envejecimiento.pdf.