Rise in older people seeking mental health support during pandemic

'Too many live alone': Pandemic impact high on older generation

There has been a rise in older people in the Albury-Wodonga area seeking mental health help during the pandemic.

And for Border professionals, the older demographic, generally over the age of 65, are more at risk of being impacted by isolation anxieties due to their age and vulnerability.

Albury Wodonga Health Older Persons Mental Health Service manager Marie Williams said they have seen an increase in referrals due to COVID-19.

"The main issues are the impact of isolation and loneliness with resulting stress, depression and anxiety," she said.

"The famous Patch Adams claims in his book Gesundheit that 'isolation and loneliness are medical emergencies' and they are for everyone.

"This is being particularly highlighted during lockdown. Some can be more vulnerable to elder abuse.

"Some find it difficult to make ends meet due to higher living costs and so their nutrition is not optimal. Some confront their vulnerability to the virus and become anxious.

"Too many live alone."

The AWH service has been using telehealth to help link clients with psychiatrists.

"This has had a positive flow on effect for some people in their confidence in using the technology for other purposes, for example catching up with friends and family members," Ms Williams said.

"Others find the technology difficult and prefer to use the phone. For those who are hearing impaired using any technology may be a challenge."

Help is available in a variety of forms for people needing help with isolation, including a program linked to the coronavirus hotline.

The Community Activation and Social Isolation initiative is expanding the hotline, 1800 675 398, by connecting callers from local government areas, including Wodonga, with local social and community support services and programs.

Uniting Goulburn North East Executive Officer Jennifer Sleep said the organisation are partnering with the government on the initiative and encouraged locals feeling lonely or disconnected from the community to reach out.

"If you were already feeling lonely or isolated before the pandemic, the physical and social distancing may have made these feelings worse," she said.

"Don't suffer in silence. If you're feeling lonely, if you're feeling disconnected from your community and the people around you, take that first step and call the hotline."

Some tips to help older people through the pandemic include keeping a routine, not watching too much television and to stay connected with their support system.

"Be aware, not alarmed," Ms Williams said.

This story 'Too many live alone': Pandemic impact high on older generation first appeared on The Border Mail.