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Tips and Techniques for Supporting Residents with Mental Illness: A Guide for Staff in Housing for Older Adults

guide coverThis guide contains basic information about the most common mental illnesses; case studies; and tips, techniques, and suggested language to help people manage complex behaviors and demanding situations. It is not intended to be all inclusive, nor should the guide be used as a substitute for seeking guidance or assistance from a mental health professional.

This guide is written to address the mental health issues that often face residents in housing for older adults. It should be noted that this guide cannot address the specific mental health needs of the many cultures and language groups living in these communities. Beliefs and behaviors vary from culture to culture and this must always be considered when thinking about what is “normal “ behavior and what may indicate a mental health issue. For instance, a discussion of the “spirit’s” presence in the apartment of one culture may have a different diagnostic implication from the same discussion with a resident of another culture.

This guide is made possible by a generous grant from Combined Jewish Philanthropies - Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund. The initiative came about when Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE) resident service coordinators reported that they did not feel prepared to work closely with residents suffering with mental illness. A bit more research revealed that all staff, from executive directors to dining services, to accounting, to compliance, to maintenance embraced the idea of learning how they could ease the burdens of those residents with mental illness by understanding more about their illnesses and how to effectively work with them. JCHE approached members of the staff from Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) who had been a resource in the past. Together, JCHE and JF&CS submitted the grant proposal and were funded.

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