The term “holistic” has become quite popular over the years. Derived from the Greek term holism, the idea translates to a natural way of feeling whole. A holistic approach to care involves supporting the mind, body, and spirit of an individual in assisted living.
Scientific findings have increasingly supported the connection between well-being and overall wellness in spirit and mind. Stress, for example, can wreak havoc on a body of any age, and blood pressure is the true indicator of problems in the elderly.
The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that the population age 85 and over could grow from 5.5 million in 2010 to 19 million by 2050. Many researchers predict that death rates at these ages will decline more rapidly than the U.S. Census Bureau’s projections, which could lead to a faster growth in this population. As these populations increase, assisted living generally will become more prominent–as will the focus on caring for the whole person.
Holistic Approach to Assisted Living
The holistic approach not only considers physical health, it also considers emotional and mental health as well. A 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine directly correlated leisure activities with brain cell stimulation and cognitive skills. Studies like these encourage assisted living facilities to consider services and benefits that help the whole person, not just meet their physical needs.
To understand the holistic approach to assisted living, the benefits must be understood in the same context of the holistic approach itself “mind, body, and spirit.” An assisted living community that adopts this form of thinking, will naturally cater to these three tenets.
A community that inspires the mind of an individual creates a culture where people can pursue what matters to them the most. In many places, extended education is an option, and a stimulating environment of lifelong learning is encouraged. A holistic approach to senior care means inspiring the mind and awakening personal innovation. Seniors should have the option of attending school until their heart’s content.
Many activities can also be specifically tailored to a person’s medical condition, including exercises in memory and general cognition. An assisted living community that practices a holistic approach will recognize the different levels and abilities of their residents and offer programs accordingly.
Additionally, a more progressive living community will allow their members to participate in a local board of advisors to represent a voice in the population. This institution of local politics can help keep residents involved and thinking about collaborative community efforts.
A comprehensive approach to senior care encourages autonomy. Most residents have lived the majority of their lives on their own terms, and a holistic facility should support that independence. People should be encouraged to start their own interest groups and affiliate with other local facilities. An example of services a holistic facility can offer to engage the mind of their residents include:
- Libraries with magnifying equipment
- Trips to cultural and learning centers
- Unlimited access to laptops and wi-fi
- On-site enrichment programming
There are a variety of ways that a senior may remain mentally astute and active. When thriving in a holistic facility, the mind is simply the first path to access an all-inclusive approach. In other words: the mind is not the only important thing to exercise.
It should come as no surprise that one of the most important aspects of maintaining vitality in old age is to exercise the body. Physical wellness can include an all-encompassing sphere of habits that a holistic living community embraces and encourages.
An individual residing in this type of community should be well aware that physical wellness is part of the program. Wellness includes everything from remaining active to getting a good night’s rest. Staff members in a holistic assisted living community will be aptly trained to manage the proper medication, help control chronic health conditions, and keep residents safe and mobile.
There are an unending number of activities that an individual can participate in to keep their body active and mobile, some of the more popular options include:
- Group exercise classes
- Pool Therapy
- Tai Chi
- Step Class
- Nature Walks
- Ballroom Dance
- Transportation to appointments, social gatherings, and shopping
- Dining at luncheons and private rooms at the assisted living community
- Companionship for daily activities like going to the salon or anything else that empowers residents
In addition to activities that will exercise an individual, other physical benefits of a holistic assisted living community include on-site medical services. Otherwise known as “concierge medicine,” these types of services may not be offered at every facility, but are options to consider. This type of service allows for doctors and specialists to make a house call with residents so they do not have to travel to appointments.
In some cases, the assisted living community will employ a resident Medical Director. When this occurs, a resident can appoint them as their primary care physician for convenience.
Perhaps the most important aspect of any holistic approach is the consideration of the spirit. What lies at the heart of any assisted living community is the soul of its members. A stellar facility should create a gateway to new opportunities for growth, personal development, and enrichment for their residents.
The spirit factor of the holistic approach takes into consideration both the emotional and social aspects of an individual. Attending to the spirit of those in an assisted living community means allowing residents the space to understand themselves and foster healthy relationships that empower them to deal with life’s challenges.
Services that deal with emotional wellness help residents build self-esteem, manage stress, and maintain a positive attitude. A holistic facility can also include some of the following emotional amenities.
- Support – Enabling family members to visit and interact with their loved one in a group therapy setting can do wonders for an individual’s spirit
- Security – A 24-hour call system that residents can have access to allows them to feel secure and comfortable
- Connection – Giving residents the ability to maintain relationships through computers and wi-fi
- Companionship – Allowing beloved pets to take the journey with residents to a holistic assisted living facility is incredibly nurturing to the soul
In addition to nurturing the spirit from an emotional aspect, the most important part of a holistic assisted living community are the social interactions and relationships. Social wellness is defined as the ability to understand and maintain personal connections that create a sense of belonging and lead to a well-established system of support.
A holistic community could not exist without the consideration of social wellness. The following are some prime examples of how a facility could assist an individual with this aspect of their needs.
- Programs that foster new friendships and strengthen bonds
- Trips to local establishments and entertainment
- Chances to interact with the surrounding community (such as volunteering at the food bank or local nursery).
Nurturing the spirit is perhaps one of the most important roles an assisted living community can play in their resident’s life. Participants should be encouraged to engage in a variety of social events that can enrich their life. Engaging in vocational activities are another way a resident can enrich their spirit. This includes activities like:
- Making blankets for infants
- Volunteering at the local food bank
- Working at an animal shelter for an hour a week
The term “holistic” does not assign itself to any religion or denomination. Residents in a holistic living community are free to practice the religion of their choice. Since the community is founded on the local voice, should the residents desire a particular service, they can usually request a specific type of service..
Each community should have at least one staff member dedicated to spiritual care. Additionally, nondenominational prayer and worship can be offered to residents seeking a spiritual connection. Chapel service can also be offered on site, depending on the facility.
Holistic Assisted Living Communities
Providing individuals with a packed calendar of daily activities with the sole intention of enriching their life serves to make their stay in any community well worth it. Interacting with the local community is directly related to self-worth and satisfaction. Practicing these kind of activities for our loved ones in their older age is the kind of treatment they have both earned and deserve.
Overall, a holistic approach to assisted living is looking at an individual in 360 degrees. To make a person happy in the later years of life, their needs have to be met on many levels. The mind, body, and spirit must be appeased, but needs can also run further.
Spiritual, emotional, social, community—a holistic approach to life is about the consideration of a person as a whole. Assisted living that takes a holistic approach to care allows an individual to continue to grow on many levels that are directly related to their development and progression as a human being.