Initiatives for isolated older Aussies

A range of initiatives and outreach projects that improve and support health literacy and social connection are among the positive approaches being developed by aged care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aged care providers are prioritising social connection as a means of boosting mental health and reducing feelings of separation from friends and family.

Not-for-profit health and aged care provider Bolton Clarke, led by the Bolton Clarke Research Institute (BCRI), has fast-tracked a telephone social support project to roll out nationally. The project will initially support isolated older people living at home, but planning is already under way to expand its reach to residents in aged care communities.

Project volunteers will be trained by Friends for Good – an Australian non-profit organisation that aims to alleviate feelings of loneliness – and will make regular calls to older home care clients.

It is modelled on the successful HOW R U? initiative, which provided post-discharge telephone support for older people to improve social connection and reduce loneliness. This project’s mission addresses these issues which organiser say are even more important during and in the post-COVID-19 world.

“Telephone support has been found to reduce feelings of social isolation, loneliness and depression and to improve quality of life,” said BCRI principal research fellow and head of research, Adjunct Professor Judy Lowthian.

“Individuals are matched with a volunteer who calls them regularly.

“We are working closely with Friends for Good, who have trained volunteers ready to commence and will also provide training for Bolton Clarke team members who are working from home in the current environment.”

Those in home care and aged care won’t be the only ones to benefit. The project also embraces people without secure accommodation and without access to food kitchens which were closed during the pandemic.

“There was a lot of anxiety among clients when the kitchens were closing and there was a real food security issue among homeless people,” said Bolton Clarke’s Homeless Persons Program (HPP) manager Mary-Anne Rushford.

“With the support of donors, we have been able to give our nurses food vouchers so they can shop for clients and provide essentials.”

The project will also help those without access to appropriate technology who cannot facilitate the move to telehealth.

“One of the key roles of our HPP nurses is supporting access to health services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” said Ms Rushford.

“Now that a lot of appointments have moved to telehealth, most of our clients don’t have the ability to access those visits.

“Where clients don’t have a telephone, our teams have been setting up devices and providing support for telehealth appointments with outpatient services and GPs.”

What do you think of these initiatives? Will they help you to stay in contact with your parents, or, if you are in aged care or home care, with your family?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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