Operations Best Practices

Can Emotional Support Help Seniors Recover Faster? A Guide for Life Enrichment Teams in Assisted Senior Living and Skilled Nursing

October 12, 2023

There is significant evidence to suggest that emotional support can play a significant role in aiding seniors' recovery from illness or injury. Numerous studies have shown that emotional well-being and social support can have a positive impact on overall health outcomes, particularly in older adults. 

As discussed in our past blog on the 7 dimensions of wellness, emotional wellness involves the ability to acknowledge and express one's feelings. Addressing older adults’ emotional needs is a key component of supporting their well-being, particularly during recovery.

Benefits of Emotional Support in Recovery

Addressing older adults’ emotional needs will help to improve mood, that is obvious! But here are some surprising ways emotional support can benefit seniors during their recovery:

- Stress Reduction: Emotional support can help reduce stress and anxiety levels in older adults, which may lead to a more favorable recovery process. Lower stress levels can positively influence the immune system, making it easier for the body to fight off infections and heal.

- Enhanced Immune Function: Social support has been linked to improved immune function in older adults, making them better equipped to combat illnesses and infections during recovery.

- Compliance with Treatment Plans: Seniors who have emotional support are more likely to adhere to their treatment plans and medication regimes, leading to better recovery outcomes.

- Motivation and Engagement: Emotional support can provide older adults with the motivation and encouragement they need to actively participate in their recovery, such as engaging in physical therapy, maintaining a healthy diet, and staying active.

- Improved Mental Health: Recovery from illness or injury can be emotionally challenging for older adults, and having a support system can help reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation, promoting a more positive mental state that can aid in recovery.

- Faster Healing: Studies have suggested that patients who feel emotionally supported may experience faster wound healing and reduced hospital stays.

- Prevention of Complications: Emotional support can help seniors identify and address potential complications during their recovery, leading to earlier intervention and better outcomes.

It's important to note that emotional support can come from various sources, including family, friends, healthcare professionals, support groups, and even pets. Providing older adults with a strong support network can significantly contribute to their well-being and recovery process. Healthcare providers often take into account the emotional and social needs of older patients to ensure comprehensive care and improved outcomes.

In skilled nursing, there is a balance between providing care with the available resources, and sadly, they can be limited. Tools like Welbi can support skilled nursing communities in building wellness programs that are scalable and easily managed. Some programs that correspond to emotional wellness include storytelling, facilitated conversations, peer counseling, and comedy nights — all of which can be replicated in Welbi to scale.

The emotional program data collected in Welbi also syncs with your EHR system, so you can share with families and nursing staff that the resident is being engaged and cared for. 

Final Thoughts

Emotional support is a vital aspect of seniors’ recovery from illness or injury. It can lessen stress, boost immunity, encourage treatment adherence, fuel motivation, and promote good mental health. This person-centered approach to healthcare can lead to swifter healing and reduced complications. With the right sources of support, including technology like Welbi, older adults can benefit from comprehensive care that addresses their emotional needs. In skilled nursing communities, committing to person-centered care means committing to improved outcomes and an enhanced quality of life for older adults.

Some Resources to Learn More: 

- Lamers, S. M., Bolier, L., Westerhof, G. J., Smit, F., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2012). The impact of emotional well-being on long-term recovery and survival in physical illness: a meta-analysis. Journal of behavioral medicine, 35(5), 538–547. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-011-9379-8

- Reblin, M., & Uchino, B. N. (2008). Social and emotional support and its implication for health. Current opinion in psychiatry, 21(2), 201–205. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0b013e3282f3ad89

- Søvold, L. E., Naslund, J. A., Kousoulis, A. A., Saxena, S., Qoronfleh, M. W., Grobler, C., & Münter, L. (2021). Prioritizing the Mental Health and Well-Being of Healthcare Workers: An Urgent Global Public Health Priority. Frontiers in public health, 9, 679397. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2021.679397

Katie Stewart

Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.

Holly Mathias

Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.

Wendy Riopelle

Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.

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