Here to hear on R U OK? Day, and every day

On R U OK? Day Uniting AgeWell is publicly launching its Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework which outlines the approach and measures we are taking to support the mental health and wellbeing of not only the older people in our care, but also of our staff.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act and it influences how we handle stress, relate to others and make healthy choices.

Uniting AgeWell General Manager Victoria, Vicky Jacques says that research shows that as you age, life can throw you a curve ball. Older people’s mental wellbeing can be affected by age-related changes including a loss of independence (like restriction on driving or needing personal or domestic help); grieving the loss of loved ones; changing work commitments and transitioning to retirement; social isolation; relationship difficulties; financial difficulties; cognitive loss; change of living arrangements and more.

“We are committed to meeting our customers’ needs to ensure measures are in place to help them overcome challenges,” says Vicky.

The framework embraces a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing – person-centred care that includes bio-medical and emotional and social support to assist older people on their ageing journey, both at home in the community and in residential care.

Uniting AgeWell’s Mental Health Framework focuses on:

  • Prevention – promoting wellbeing, information and identifying concerns
  • Treatment – social workers, chaplains, referring to mental health specialists
  • Maintenance – support with long term treatment goals

Framework Development underpinned by research

The framework itself was a significant undertaking by esteemed Mental Health expert Alan Woodward and Uniting AgeWell Director Strategy & Innovation Nina Bowes. It involved extensive consultation with a range of experts, Uniting AgeWell staff and older customers taking on board the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health.

The framework is underpinned by research, including a three-year study into the science of happiness, which is set to shape the future of aged care across Australia. A Goodlife-Outcome Measures project led by Flinders University in partnership with Uniting AgeWell, as one of the project’s industry partners, looked at what determines quality of life for older people including developing the Quality of Life – Aged Care Consumers quantitative tools to measure wellbeing levels and has now been adopted by the Australian Government as standard practice across Australia.

Other ongoing research to inform best practice includes:

  • Dossy – an easy-to-use video calling app to help ease social isolation and
  • Talking Mental Health which looks at guidelines, procedures and implementation strategies to support staff and build confidence around helping clients achieve mental health wellness.

Action on mental health

Vicky reports that the implementation of the Mental Health Framework is gaining momentum and relies upon resourcing and upskilling staff. She says promoting wellbeing includes:

  • embracing new technology that connects older people with friends and family;
  • putting a suite of programs in place, both in residential and home care settings, to reduce loneliness and increase inclusion and a sense of purpose;
  • Staff using Do Be Feel Cards, to monitor mood and to flag further investigation;
  • Dossy helping customers in the community connect with family and service providers;
  • social connections programs helping people exercise their social muscles;
  • intergenerational activities reminding young and old alike of the joys of being part of local neighbourhoods; and
  • staff being trained to increase their own awareness of their own mental health and resilience by getting involved in the 15 minute challenge and making use of the staff wellness portal and access the Employee Assistance Program as needs arise.
Learn more about Uniting AgeWell's Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework