Alone and at risk: mental health concerns for those in aged care

17 August 2020
 
 
 
As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, particularly in Victoria, concerns grow for the mental health and wellbeing impact extended lockdown restrictions and isolation will have on our older population, especially those in aged care facilities.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) says that there is great concern amongst mental health professionals around the mental health effects COVID-19 is having on older Australians.

President of the RANZCP, Associate Professor John Allan, explains that the isolation being experienced by those in aged care facilities is likely create or compound already existing mental health issues in our older generation.

‘The level of loneliness being experienced by older Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic is of great concern, not only in the mental health profession but amongst their family and friends as well’, said Associate Professor Allan.

‘The interruption in their daily routine, lack of access to their usual psychosocial supports, such as family and friends and the restrictions placed on their movement within the facility is a great source of unease and stress for residents.

‘Many residents would be confined to their rooms or have limited ability to participate in activities within the facility, meaning that they aren’t getting the level of socialisation they are used to, resulting in heightened feelings of isolation and anxiety.’

Chair of the RANZCP Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, Associate Professor Steve Macfarlane, went on to explain that this is exacerbated by restrictions preventing residents’ ability to visit specialists, and for specialists to visit homes in lockdown.

‘With restrictions placed on our aged care facilities, there is limited ability for residents to be able to attend external specialist appointments with some being required to self-isolate after they return from an appointment’, said Associate Professor Macfarlane.

‘This is also problematic for specialists and public mental health teams in their attempts to provide inreach support due to visitor restrictions placed on the aged care homes.

‘There is also the matter of staffing issues resulting in substitute or emergency staff not being aware of or understanding the particular mental health needs of residents they are unfamiliar with.

‘Whilst we understand that these restrictions are in place to protect the health of our aged care residents and workers, we are concerned for the severe impact this is having, and will have, on aged care residents as the high levels of isolation continue.’

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.