Aged Care Mental Wellness Matters Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community."
The Mental Health Commission published a report in 2020 that shows Australia is significantly challenged with issues concerning mental health and suicide. In time this will be realised with a professional collective drive for better outcomes, together with an integrated, person-centred approach.
In support of Mental Health Month, we are shining a light on supporting mental wellness in our elderly generation, the most vulnerable.
The report makes key four recommendations, one of which is the inclusion of the development of a National Older Persons Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. The full monitoring mental health and suicide prevention reform national report includes workplace mental wellness and e-mental health, as well as geographic considerations for remote and regional applications.
Kineo’s Aged Care subject matter expert, Drew Dwyer specialises in the ageing process and its impact on the individual and society. In his book, Ageing In the 'New Age': A Survival Guide for Baby Boomers on the topic of mental wellness in Aged Care he states:
“...I see more issues with mental and behavioral aspects of ageing that create problems in wellness, such as anxiety and depression and Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). The process of ageing itself brings many psychological changes in one’s normal life, such as empty nesting, the deaths of friends and loved ones, work-life changes, and other significant events. Anxiety and depression are common in our elderly population, and this is usually confused with the signs and symptoms of dementia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),which still goes underdiagnosed.”
Our ageing population
The aged population is currently at its highest level in human history.
In 2017, there were 3.8 million Australians aged 65 and over (comprising 15% of the total population). The number and proportion of older Australians is expected to continue to grow. By 2057, it is projected there will be 8.8 million older people in Australia (22% of the population); and by 2097, 12.8 million people (25%) will be aged 65 and over. The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare.
Keeping up social engagements among the elderly has always been a challenge, and this undoubtedly has been compounded with the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Older people don’t want to be a burden to their family, yet it’s important to look out for our loved ones. Loneliness creeps in and when unchecked can lead to anxiety and depression.
Beyond Blue indicates that 15% of older people in Australia and 35% living in residential aged-care suffer from Depression. Declining physical health and personal loss are the top reasons. Although more complicated to ascertain, 1 in 5 older people with dementia are also thought to have depression.
Tell-tale signs of mental health challenges in an older person
Foregoing duties, an increase in poor hygiene, general decline and withdrawal from social activities family and friends are key markers. Generally, out of character behaviour, and a general malaise and disinterest in activities that were previously enjoyed should be seen as signs too. Older people can still view challenges with mental wellness as a sign of weakness, so may be reluctant to speak up and instead prefer to take their concerns to their GP as a physical ailment.
What can we do to help with early prevention in support of our elderly?
Small gestures really can make a difference. Whether a loved one, or a neighbour, regular communication can really make a difference. Everyone wants to feel heard and valued. Offer a listening ear in support and let them know you are there to help. If they want to open up and seek help, there are organisations like Beyond Blue that have great resources for support and where to go for professional help.
We’d like to eradicate all outmoded stigmas that surround mental health issues with our elderly. Reach out to someone you think could be vulnerable and reassure them that you care. If we all took one extra step, just think of the positive outcomes we could achieve.
Providing support for mental health issues within the Aged Care workforce
We recently conducted a research study, interviewing a range of industry experts on the topics that matter to them. One key concern repeatedly raised was around mental health issues in the Aged Care workforce...READ MORE