New initiatives set up for locked in older Australians

Aged care providers are prioritising social connection as a way of reducing feelings of separation.

older woman looking out her window

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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    COMMENTS

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    Misty
    20th Apr 2020
    12:28pm
    My younger sister who lives in a small 1 bedroom unit in Sydney is finding the isolation very hard, she suffers depression and panic attacks and being cut off from family and friends has made things much worse for her. phone calls to family and friends does help a bit but does not make up for family visits, grandchildren and social outings. Without access to my computer for web surfing, Facebook interaction and playing bridge I too would find the isolation hard, but at least here in the country I can go for walks in the fresh air and work in my garden, I really feel for those people stuck in high rise units in the concrete jungle of cities.
    Misty
    20th Apr 2020
    12:31pm
    The committee members of our local Ladies Probus Club also have a roster system where they ring all the local members every so often to check on their well being.
    Alipal
    20th Apr 2020
    1:52pm
    I am finding it quite difficult to access a time for my neighbours to collect groceries for me from Woolies. I have found the Coles timetable more flexible. Woolies call centre agreed that I should set my alarm for midnight to secure a spot. I was hoping to share the love amongst the supermarkets, but it looks like I'm heading back to Mr Coles.
    Misty
    20th Apr 2020
    2:35pm
    Doesn't Coles delver in you area Alipal?, I had an email last week saying they were delivering to seniors and disabled etc but unfortunately not yet to my country town, same problem with Woollies, country people discriminated against yet again. I don't know why both stores cannot employ some of the recently unemployed people to pack and deliver, it would help us and provide jobs for so many.
    Alipal
    20th Apr 2020
    5:23pm
    Yes, Misty. Coles has been fine. I feel sorry for folks in the regions and the country where there is just no choice. Folk are travelling for miles trying to make do with one shop a week and are then hamstrung by limits on goods.


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