If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the value of maintain social connection. But for our ageing citizens, this isn’t new information. In fact, the elderly are some of the most susceptible to the negative impacts of too much social isolation. A number of mental health issues in aged care stem from a lack of social engagement. The desire to stay connected is something we all share as humans, so it’s important to remember to keep in touch with our loved ones, even when things go back to normal (and our lives get “busy” again!).
Mental health issues in aged care: the impacts of loneliness
An article from the ABC, written before COVID-19, says that isolation and feelings of loneliness are impacting the Australians of today. It states that a recent report found that one in six people feel lonely in any given year, with rates of emotional loneliness increasing in 64+ year-olds. This has led to a rise in mental health issues in aged care.
In recent years, data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics has reported alarming rates of suicide among older Australians due to anxiety and depression, which can worsen with a lack of social interaction. In fact, Beyond Blue’s website suggests that 10-15 per cent of elderly Australians suffer from depression, and 10 per cent experience anxiety. They also claim that “older people are more likely to experience contributing factors such as physical illness or personal loss.” Loneliness is responsible for a plethora of mental health issues in aged care – but the cure might be easier than you think!
How to fight loneliness
We all know how horrible it is to be lonely, so what can we do to rid our elderly citizens of this feeling? The answer in simple: stay connected! While there have been talks about appointing a Minister for Loneliness, as they have done in the UK, Australia’s solution is much simpler.
Federal Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt, says it’s as easy as recognising someone who feels lonely. He suggest we drop our loved ones a line, and check in on how they’re doing. Keeping in touch with our loved ones is a strong defence against several mental health issues in aged care. A quick phone call, or catching up for a cup of tea, can have a much greater impact than you think.
What can I do?
If you see something, do something. Too many mental health issues in aged care are preventable. If someone you know if lonely, or suffering from depression and anxiety, reach out to them. A shoulder to cry on, or a laugh with an old friend, might be exactly what they need.
And if you’re an elderly Australian suffering, try to stay connected. It can be difficult to keep up with the latest social media and communication technology, but not impossible! Give you tech-savvy grandchildren a call, and ask them for advice – in doing so, you’re already getting some social interaction.
How will you stay connected?
To learn more about caring for the elderly, or what you can do to help, get in touch with our friendly team. We’re here for you as you support your ageing loved ones.