In a piece for Aged Health Magazine, COTA CEO Patricia Sparrow and Engagement Lead Maria Katsabanis wrote that there were a number of actions required to help ensure seniors received the help they required when it came to maintaining their mental health and wellbeing.

In the article, the pair called for a national older persons mental health strategy, with targets and indicators, that was properly resourced, monitored and evaluated.
“There is a need to ensure that the strategies that people asked for – strong social connections, the right information, access to social support and services, aged-informed mental health expertise, engagements with community-based organisations – are in place, adequately funded and accessible to all.”

 The plea

Their plea follows a survey of more than 1,100 older Australians that sought to understand how people aged 75 and over managed during the pandemic and lockdowns, and to what extent their mental health and wellbeing were affected.
The survey found one-third of older Australians reported their mental health was adversely affected by lockdown measures. Of these, 88 percent did not receive support from a mental health professional or mental health service.

The responses showed that older women, in particular those with caring responsibilities, older people living with disability, older people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people living with dementia were particularly vulnerable to mental distress.
The authors also argued that a trained professional aged care workforce needed to be prioritised.
“We need care staff to be trained in first aid mental health – to at least be aware of the signs of distress in older people they work with, and to know where and how to refer to people. In our research, the understanding of mental health varied from facility to facility, provider to provider and staff member to a staff member.”
“A focus on crisis management seemed to override other issues. Staff providing care and service providers to older people need training and education in mental health awareness.”


There was also a need to promote and normalise mental health services and language among older people, they noted.
“If we are serious about older people’s mental health and wellbeing, not only in times of national crisis, we need to make it a health priority. We need to prioritise the importance of preventative work with the mental health of older people.”

All older Australians have the right to an adequate standard of health care, and this includes mental health care and services, they noted.
“This is not an optional luxury for times of economic affluence but a fundamental right and social necessity.”
Do you need aged care support for yourself or a loved one? Just Better Care is designed to help people from diverse backgrounds with different lifestyles and personalities achieve their goals. Get started by talking to a local team member today.