The effect of co-led mutual support groups in long-term care facilities on well-being

The social relationships that residents form within long-term care facilities (LTCF) are believed to buffer them from loneliness and depression to a greater degree than relationships with family and friends outside of facilities. Furthermore, support from friends and social groups has been associated with positive outcomes for older people living with chronic and serious health conditions. Traditional social activities in LTCF are not usually led by residents and are often passive entertainment programs that don’t provide the necessary supportive environment for residents to interact beyond surface social interactions. These activities are not usually grounded in research evidence, and some programs intended to foster resident well-being actually have adverse effects, including the perception among residents that activities offered are “childlike.” Currently, there is a lack of research evidence showing the benefits of specific social activity programs provided to residents in LTCF. One aspect of particular interest is the use of co-led self-support groups, which aim to enhance residents’ sense of belonging, self-development and self-determination. In this format, an activity staff member co-leads the groups with a resident group member, and acts in the role of a facilitator in order to assist with any special needs of the residents. Kristine Theurer is studying the benefits of co-led mutual support groups. Her assessments of resident well-being will be based on measures of sense of belongingness, loneliness, life satisfaction and happiness. From her findings, she will provide recommendations for co-led group formation, number of participants, suggested theme topics and supportive materials. Ultimately, her work will help LTCF provide appropriate evidence-based programming that supports residents to achieve a better quality of life.