Mental health support for older people
Your older loved one’s mental health is just as important as their physical health
Growing older can be a joy. The daily struggle to get the work-life balance right is no longer an issue, worrying about what people think of you is a thing of the past, and generally your time is your own. But sometimes, a sudden bereavement, being no longer able to drive, needing care for the first time or experiencing serious illness can shake an older person’s sense of self. So, it’s important to be aware of how these changes can affect your older loved one’s mental health and what you can do to support them.
Looking after mental health for older people
Looking after our bodies goes a long way to looking after our mental health. Your older loved one’s mental health can benefit when they:
- eat well
- have enough sleep and
- exercise regularly.
Social and emotional wellbeing is so important. Older people can maintain better mental health when they:
- spend time with friends and family
- connect with their local community and
- talk to others about how they are feeling.
Seniors programs, such as at neighbourhood houses, libraries, or local council programs, are a great way to connect with others, offering activities that stimulate the brain, such as arts and crafts, singing or gentle exercise. ‘Men’s sheds’, churches, clubs and volunteer organisations also offer companionship, conversation and connection.
You can explore activities in your local area, such as:
- Your local neighbourhood house
- University of the Third Age network Victoria (U3A)
- Council on the Ageing Victoria (COTA) programs
Encouraging your loved one to do some (or all) of these activities can help them stay mentally healthy… and give you a welcome break from daily care.
What are the signs an older person needs mental health support?
Many older people don’t want to bother their loved ones. They may be of the generation that ‘soldiered on’, are embarrassed about seeking help for mental health issues or are unsure what support is available and if it’s affordable. So, sometimes they can struggle along on their own, pretending everything is alright.
If you feel your older loved one is in this situation, there are things you can look out for.
- show less interest in their personal care, by showering less often, not worrying about their appearance or wearing the same clothes day after day.
- take less interest in cooking and eating, preferring to eat simple snacks, such as biscuits or toast, instead of nutritious meals
- withdraw from much-loved social activities, preferring to stay at home.
If you do notice any of these changes, start by asking an older person how they are doing and spend time listening to their response and concerns. There is plenty of support available to maintain good mental health for seniors.
A number of factors can contribute to changes in mental health for older people. We know that depression is very common in people living with dementia (learn more about dementia vs depression in this article from Dementia Australia). But depression may be a side effect of certain medications, or it could be a natural response to significant life changes such as grief, reduced mobility and independence, serious illnesses or social isolation. It’s best to get an assessment and advice from a healthcare professional.
How can you support your older loved one who is reluctant to seek help?
Seniors might be worried about incurring costs and hassle for their family.
- Reassure them home care services will help protect their health and safety and ensure they can enjoy living at home for longer, which is the most important thing.
- Added to that, more government funding being directed at home care services is good news for families, with expert advocates like us at Empower Aged Care helping older people access the funded services they need.
And be sure to continue looking after yourself so you can be the best support for your older loved one.
Mental health support for seniors is available
Your first step for any health issue is to speak to your doctor. Your older loved one’s GP can arrange a mental health care plan and decide if urgent care is needed.
Mental health support services such as psychology and counselling can be accessed using My Aged Care and we can help with arrangements.
How My Aged Care supports seniors’ wellbeing
My Aged Care is the single access point to access any government-funded support for older people. There are several services under My Aged Care which can support a senior’s wellbeing such as:
- Planned Activity Groups
- Delivered Meals
- Individual Social support / visiting
If higher levels of support or more coordinated care is required then an older person may be eligible for a Home Care Package.
Waiting times for Home Care Packages can be quite long and the process is confusing, so getting help sooner rather than later is a good idea. It’s ideal to have support in place before a situation becomes urgent.
Need help with Home Care Packages? We can navigate My Aged Care on your behalf and make all the arrangements for home care services that support mental and physical wellbeing.
Get help to navigate My Aged Care
We all know that navigating government systems can be confusing at the best of times. But trying to understand all the processes, assessments and exemptions can add unnecessary stress when you’re already worried about your loved one’s mental health.
This is where Empower Aged Care can help. We become your loved one’s representative and navigate My Aged Care from start to finish on your behalf.
We start with a Holistic Aged Care Assessment. This is a comprehensive needs assessment that looks at your senior’s mental and emotional state along with physical health needs. We create a personalised plan and then help you find and arrange the best home-based aged care support to meet your needs.
As experienced healthcare professionals and home care advocates we often uncover issues that you and your older person were not aware of and can suggest services to support them to live well at home for longer.
We complete all the referrals, make all the phone calls and submit all the documents, so you can relax and we can get those services underway.
Your loved one’s mental health is just as important a part of their wellbeing as their physical health. When your loved one stays mentally well, everyone benefits – they have a higher quality of life and you can relax, enjoying your time with them.
Knowing what to look for and seeking help early is the best way to assist your loved one if you’re concerned about their mental health.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s part of maintaining wellbeing.
We home visit to families across Melbourne and Geelong to conduct Home Care Assessments, and coordinate services with an older person’s GP and health practitioners. It can be helpful for a healthcare practitioner to have this conversation together with the family, so don’t hesitate to call on us for an appointment.
In an emergency call 000
Speak to your doctor first with any mental health concerns
Speak to us to get help with My Aged Care