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Supporting Younger Residents

How to support your younger residents

How to support your younger residents

Seniors are no longer the only residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the country. Recent studies indicate that one of the fastest growing populations in long-term care is actually young adults, with a 2010 NPR report finding that 14 percent of nursing home residents are 31 to 64 years of age. NPR writes that this number is up 10 percentage points from a decade before.

Many of these residents live in facilities that are specially equipped to care for younger residents, while others are living in environments where nearly all other residents are over the age of 65. While both situations are difficult in terms of caring for the needs of younger, sometimes challenging residents, it is the latter situation many long-term care facilities are frequently struggling with. Accommodating the emotional, physical and recreational needs of young residents at long-term care facilities primarily geared for senior residents has left many staff members bewildered and unprepared.

What should long-term care providers understand about younger residents?
Unlike their older counterparts, younger residents in long-term care facilities present unique challenges for caregivers, specially in regards to different clinical diagnosis and behavioral issues. According to the the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, based on their disability, they typically fall into one of three categories:

  1. They have been suffering from a chronic psychiatric, or progressive illnesses for many years.
  2. They have been ill or institutionalized from birth or childhood.  
  3. They had a sudden onset of physical problems due to lifestyle choices, injury or other incident. 

Long-term care facilities may find that in comparison to senior residents, younger residents typically suffer from: hemiplegia and quadriplegia due to trauma, chronic and neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, and intellectual disability and other developmental disabilities. Unlike these residents, senior residents need care due to progressive dementia, physical limitations and general age-related problems.

"Care providers must be ready to meet the basic human needs of younger residents."

Before bringing younger residents into their care, facility decision-makers must ask themselves how they plan to take care of the unique needs these specific residents present. They also must be aware that they may be caring for many of these younger residents for upwards of 30 or even 50 years, depending on the age of the resident on admission. Essentially, care providers must be ready to meet the psychiatric, social, psychological and other basic human needs of these younger residents, while balancing the needs of their senior residents. 

How can care providers support their younger residents?
The challenge with caring for younger residents does not lie with the residents themselves or the care providers who are having difficulties. This problem is found within the approach long-term care facilities take for caring for these specific resident populations. It's essential for facility decision-makers to have a set of policies in place and support tools to not only care for these residents, but help them to thrive. To help long-term care facilities, the American Medical Directors Association published a toolkit entitled "The Younger Adult in the Long Term Care Setting."

The toolkit addresses this group's specific needs and how staff members can collaborate to find lasting solutions to their difficulties. Unlike caring for seniors, younger residents present numerous challenges that many staff members may not have learned about in their professional training or previous work experience. Some of these key issues the toolkit covers are:

  • Learning how to craft age-appropriate activities. 
  • Training staff to effectively care for younger residents.
  • Identifying and addressing generational differences.
  • Working together as a team.
  • Establishing facility policies that are both practical and comprehensive.
  • Knowing appropriate relationships between staff and residents.

To learn more about providing quality care for younger residents, take one of Mariposa Training's long-term care courses, such as "Understanding the Psychosocial Needs of Our Younger Residents" today!

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