Meaning as Medicine

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Meaning as Medicine

Posted on April 4, 2022

When it comes to our health and wellbeing, we are just as likely to be affected by our environmental and social surroundings as by our biology. The social determinants of health, including where we live geographically, our education, who we interact with at home, during work and in the community, all impact how healthy we are today and what our future health outcomes may be. In fact, these social determinants of health can influence up to 70% of a person’s overall health.

Linked Senior believes in a world where people of all ages are respected and valued. To make this a reality though, we need to offer people more than just medicine when they are facing obstacles with their physical and mental health. For older adults especially, there needs to be a “social prescription” that healthcare professionals can use that connects them with non-drug solutions that are based on their life history, individual preferences, and current abilities. We should be prescribing time in nature, meditation, music, healthy nutrition options, painting and any other engaging activity that brings meaning, purpose, and agency into their lives.

Often these types of “prescriptions” are affordable and can have a more positive impact on health when compared to expensive medicine. A social prescription integrates fully with a person’s individuality focusing on making available social and environmental options that will be the most meaningful for them.

In senior living communities today, we can make the social prescription a reality by focusing on three key areas:

  • Creating an interdisciplinary team

Engaging residents in a meaningful way and making social prescriptions is not just the job of the life enrichment professional. Physicians, nurses, dietary aides, and anyone working in a senior living community needs to be educated in how to learn a resident’s life story so that they can engage them based on their unique needs and preferences.

To help all team members collaborate on this, communities need to make it a priority to capture a comprehensive story about each resident. This way they connect with them using empathy and carry that through the person’s aging journey to support their belonging and health until the end of life.

  • Using technology to increase efficiency

Most communities cannot issue social prescriptions today because they simply do not have digital tools in place that allow them to assess, plan, implement and evaluate resident engagement based on data regarding every resident’s life story in real time. Once we move beyond paper, and invest in these supportive technologies, we can greatly improve our ability to connect every resident to the activities that are most meaningful to them which will have the most positive impact on their health and wellbeing.

  • Engaging residents using a data driven approach

It is time that every community created a role called the Chief Engagement Officer (CEO), a person who measures and manages all aspects of life enrichment for residents to optimize health through social prescriptions. This staff member would need to show how well the community is meeting the preferences of their residents as part of their quarterly performance review and the annual performance review of the organization.