The following discuss the pressing need to expand psychology services for Australian seniors and explore ways to take care of their mental health, leading to a more fulfilling retirement.
As Australia’s elderly population continues to grow, ensuring their mental health and well-being becomes paramount. Psychological support plays a crucial role in promoting the overall health and stability of the elderly. Unfortunately, mental health issues among seniors often go unnoticed or are inadequately addressed.
The APS Analysis and Proposals
Many seniors face challenges such as anxiety, loneliness, loss of loved ones, and grief, which can significantly impact their quality of life. The issue was recently brought forth by the Australian Psychological Society (APS). The APS conducted an analysis of mental health conditions in the aged care sector two years after being investigated by the Aged Care Royal Commission.
The evaluators found, among others, that 60 per cent of aged-care residents were diagnosed with mental health conditions. From this demographic, around 50 per cent had depression, 47 per cent reported mood swings, and 20 per cent suffered from anxiety disorders.
When it came to comorbidities, 60 per cent of aged-care residents were also found with non-communicable illnesses such as diabetes or incontinence, while 47 per cent of residents with dementia also had mood disorders.
The APS also laid down proposals for the federal government to consider bolstering psychology services for the elderly, such as:
- increased funding and delegation for mental health programming in the Primary Health Networks Improved Access to Psychological Services in Aged Care Facilities initiative;
- Permanent linking of aged-care residents to the MBS Better Access initiative;
- Increased funding for aged-care researchers, particularly for evidence-based psychological support.
“The mental health of aged care residents is just, if not more important than their physical health. Australians would be shocked to learn that their access to expert mental health care largely stops when they enter aged care,.” said APS president Dr. Catriona Davis-McCabe.
The Need to Expand Psychology Services for Seniors
Many seniors experience declining health, social isolation, and depression, especially if they live alone or have limited mobility. Since physical and mental health are intricately connected, untreated mental health issues can exacerbate physical conditions and vice versa.
Psychological support is not only vital for seniors but also for their caregivers. Family members caring for elderly loved ones may experience stress and burnout. Support services can help caregivers cope with their emotional challenges.
Mental health stigma still exists in society, and seniors may be hesitant to seek help due to fear of judgement. Expanding psychological support can help identify and address these issues promptly.
Ways Seniors Can Take Care of Their Mental Health
Social connections are essential for mental well-being. Seniors should engage in regular social activities, join clubs, or participate in community events to stay connected with others.
Regular communication with family and friends, especially those living far away, can help combat feelings of isolation.
Stay Physically Active
Regular exercise, in conjunction with other healthy habits, can be a valuable component of a holistic approach to maintaining and improving mental health. Seniors should incorporate physical activities suitable for their abilities, such as walking, yoga, or gentle exercises, into their daily routines.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness practices and meditation can help seniors reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and promote a sense of calm and tranquillity. Practising relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or listening to calming music can help seniors manage stress and anxiety.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet can contribute to better mental health. Seniors should focus on consuming nutritious foods that support brain health, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Hobbies and Interests
Pursuing hobbies and interests that bring joy and fulfilment can have a positive impact on mental health. Seniors should explore activities they are passionate about.
Volunteer and Give Back
Engaging in volunteer work and giving back to the community can create a sense of purpose and fulfilment in seniors’ lives.
Stay Informed and Educated
Staying mentally active through reading, puzzles, or learning new skills can keep the mind sharp and promote cognitive well-being.
Seek Professional Help
Seniors should not hesitate to reach out to mental health professionals if they experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, or loneliness. Regular therapy or counselling sessions can provide valuable support.
The A.S.A.G. Reverse Mortgage
Prioritising mental health can create a society that supports and empowers seniors to lead meaningful and stable lives as they age.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only and must not be considered as official medical advice. The Australian Seniors Advisory Group has no relationships with any seniors care industry stakeholder. Please consult a mental health support practitioner for your options.