Considering Mental Health in Aged Care

Considering Mental Health in Aged Care: Scalabrini’s Approach

Each and every year, we’re able to have more conversations about mental health – but there is still more work to do.

Mental health, especially mental health in men, is slowly becoming a regular mainstream conversation. However, for some there is still sensitivity or unawareness around how negatively poor mental health can impact a person.

In Australia, approximately 3,000 people end their life each year, with suicide being the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 49. Out of the 9 suicide deaths that occur on average every day, roughly 7 of those are males.

Knowing the national statistics, Scalabrini can not only ensure we provide the appropriate care and support for residents, staff and volunteers.

At Scalabrini, one of our main goals is to help our aged care residents improve their mental health in order to maintain a high quality of life no matter their life circumstances. Our care planning for residents will always consider their mental health and keep their wants in mind to ensure they are living life feeling fulfilled with all their needs being met.

All our villages have Wellbeing Coordinators whose work with our People, Learning and Culture team as well as the Village Managers to facilitate activities that improve the wellbeing of our residents which can include:

  • •.   Regular exercise
  • •.   Engaging in hobbies like cooking, reading and art
  • •.   Connecting and conversing with others

Events are also organised throughout the year which include but are not limited to:

  • •.   Men’s Mental Health Awareness week in June
  • •.   R U OK Day on September 14th
  • •.   Movember over the month of November

These events are the perfect opportunity and reminder for us to be checking in with our loved ones. Events and activities that focus on improving wellbeing and mental health awareness are consistently organised at each of our village locations and at our support office. We aim to consistently create opportunities for all of the Scalabrini community to have deeper conversations about mental health both at work and during our daily lives.

If you’d like to enquire about how Scalabrini accommodates for mental health needs as an aged care provider, call our helpful staff today at 1800 722 522 or email us at enquiries@scalabrini.com.au

If you have concerns about a loved one or need mental health support personally, please contact the following organisations:

  • •.   Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • •.   Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
  • •.   Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Depressed,Middle-aged,Man,Sitting,On,Couch,In,Living,Room,,Leaning

8 Signs of Caregiver Stress

Are you or someone you know a caregiver? It’s important for caregivers to make sure that while they’re looking after others, they’re also looking after themselves.

 

Being a caregiver for a loved one with a chronic or complex condition can be stressful due to the high levels of dependency and care the individual requires. Noting signs of stress and burnout when they first start ensures that caregiving can still occur, but not at the expense of the caregiver’s personal holistic health.

Common signs of caregiver stress to look out for includes:

  1. Trouble sleeping
  2. Trouble focusing and maintaining current duties
  3. Feeling resentful and/or hopeless
  4. Feeling anxious, depressed or irritable
  5. Feeling exhausted and constantly tired even after resting
  6. Constant new health issues (eg. the flu) or an increase in the severity of current ones
  7. An increase in drinking, smoking or eating
  8. A decrease in personal hobbies and interests

Caregivers need to have their own lives where their needs are also met and they feel fulfilled and well rested. Caregiver burnout can happen when you’re either too busy or feel so discouraged and overwhelmed that you stop trying to look after yourself.

Delegating care responsibilities means that your loved one is still looked after, but there is now the time and energy to take care of your own wellbeing too.

As an aged care provider, at Scalabrini we aim to come alongside caregivers to provide customised care for those who require dementia care, palliative care and chronic and complex care. We understand that there is no one size fits all approach to aged care and that every individual is unique in their personality and their needs.

Contact Scalabrini today at 1800 722 522 or email us at enquiries@scalabrini.com.au to see how we can provide everything you value most when it comes to quality aged care and help you decide if aged care is right for you and your loved one.

Take care of mental wellbeing in COVID-19

How to take care of your mental wellbeing when the world feels crazy

While the situation around COVID-19 seems to be improving in Australia, many of us are still being bombarded with anxiety-provoking information. From news alerts about the death toll to speculations about the future of the economy or someone on your Facebook feed spruiking conspiracy theories, it can feel as though the world has been tipped upside down.

In times of change, uncertainty and hardship, it becomes even more important to look after your mental wellbeing. In doing so, you can help to keep feelings of being overwhelmed, anxiety and fear at bay.

But, how do you stay sane when the world feels crazy? Here are 6 tips for managing your mental wellbeing in the coronavirus crisis that you can use yourself, or pass on to loved ones who are struggling.

Practice mindfulness

Many people associate the practice of mindfulness with yoga and meditation. But while these are certainly both great ways to practice it, they’re not the only ways.

At the heart of it, mindfulness is about staying present in the current moment. It’s not fretting about that frightening news article you read earlier or worrying about the next time you’re going to see your loved ones. It’s staying in the right here, right now — because in the present moment, things are fine.

Mindfulness has been proven to positively impact the body’s stress response, so that you feel more calm, centred and in control. And, you don’t necessarily have to sit cross-legged on the floor and try not to think about anything to do so, if that’s not your style.

Some other great ways you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life include prayer, doing creative activities like colouring-in or painting, crosswords — anything where you get completely absorbed in what you’re doing. 

You can also incorporate mindfulness into mundane activities like washing the dishes, by focusing on your sensations i.e. what can you smell, what can you hear and what can you feel?

Take a digital detox

It’s important to know the facts around the ever-changing coronavirus situation, so that you can take necessary precautions. But beyond that, the constant barrage of information can do you more harm than good. 

Not all news sources are completely accurate, and many make their money by enticing people to click on sensationalist headlines. So, to help alleviate some of your stress, you may want to consider doing a digital detox. 

Try culling some of your sources of news information that aren’t absolutely essential and instead get your news only from credible sources such as the Australian government or the World Health Organisation. 

Rather than constantly getting alerts from these every day, you may choose to check these once a day at the same time, or watch just one news update per night.

Prioritise your physical health

Your physical and mental health are inextricably connected, and you cannot have one without the other. So, in order to take care of your mind, it’s also important to take care of your body. When we’re run down, we’re more susceptible to stress and anxiety, and vice versa.

Some great ways to take care of your physical health include drinking plenty of water, eating a diet full of nutritious foods and moving your body at least once per day. If possible, also see if you can get outdoors for at least a few minutes per day, whether that’s for a brief walk around the neighbourhood or to do some gardening in the yard.

It’s also important for your overall wellbeing to get at least eight hours of sleep per night. If you are struggling to get to adequate sleep, incorporating mindfulness and digital detoxes from the previous steps might help, as well as getting some exercise and sunlight.

Look out for those around you

In times like this, it’s more important than ever to remember that we’re all in this together. Helping others in need during this difficult time is not only the right thing to do, but it can actually help with your own mental wellbeing.

Research actually shows that helping others can boost your mood and make it easier to deal with stress. It helps take your mind off you and your own worries and instead, focus on the bigger picture.

One great way you can help others in this time of need includes looking out for the seniors in your life — whether that’s your neighbours, family or friends.

With strict government advice for those over 60 to stay home, many older Australians are dealing with strong feelings of loneliness and sadness. We’ve put together a list of some simple ways you can look out for the elderly in this article.

Remain calm but cautious

As the age-old expression goes “be alert, but not alarmed.” Remaining as calm as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t mean that you don’t care about doing your bit. It simply means that you’re focusing on what’s within your own circle of control (your own actions and how you react to it) and relinquishing control of the things you cannot. 

You may want to consider making a list of the actions you can take to help the situation (such as being vigilant about washing your hands, practising social distancing, volunteering or helping others in need) so that you can focus on those, rather than what’s out of your control.

Create a routine

In a world filled with uncertainty, it can be helpful to have rituals that feel familiar and grounding. To help give some structure to your days, you may want to consider incorporating some routine into your daily life.

This might be having a cuppa on the balcony every morning, or writing down a list of things you’re grateful for every night. It could also be looking at photos of loved ones first thing in the morning and last thing at night. These routines can bookend your day and help give you some much-needed certainty.

By following the tips on this list, you can look after your mental wellbeing while you need it most — and be a calming influence on the people around you, too.

Brunette female holding her mobile phone, looking through the window and drinking coffee

Tips for Caregivers to Manage Stress

More Australians are reaching an advanced age, and the number of people who have dementia is also rising. In 2015, 49% of people with dementia lived in aged-care accommodation. However, this still leaves 51% of people living with dementia who are being cared for by friends and family members. People who are living with the diseases that cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Bodies dementia, fronto-temporal dementia require a much greater amount of support and care compared to elderly people who don’t have these conditions.

While dementia can be hugely challenging for people who have been diagnosed, this also has a massive impact on the families and friends who look after them. Caregiver stress and burnout are common in people who are supporting  the elderly, particularly if that person is living with dementia.

Managing stress for caregivers is important, as it helps prevent burnout. You may be dealing with caregiver stress if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • You constantly feel worried and/or overwhelmed
  • You’re always tired
  • You’re sleeping too much or not enough
  • You’re easily angry or irritated
  • You’re losing or gaining weight
  • You’re no longer interested in the types of activities you used to enjoy
  • You’re often sad
  • You frequently have body pain or headaches
  • You find yourself using drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication to cope.

If any of the above sounds familiar, you may be experiencing caregiver stress. Here are some tips for caregivers of elderly people:

Use relaxation techniques

According to Mayo Clinic, there are a number of relaxation techniques which can help you slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, reduce chronic pain and muscle tension, and improve your mood and concentration. They can also help you get a better sleep and reduce some of the frustration and anger that caregivers can experience.

Autogenic relaxation is a good option if you’re having difficulty sleeping. That’s because it involves using both body awareness and visual imagery to reduce stress. You simply repeat suggestions or words to help you reduce muscle tension and relax.

Progressive muscle relaxation also works well, as you tense and relax each group of muscles, so you can become more aware of when you’re feeling tense and take immediate steps to relax.

Many people also use visualization, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, and mindfulness for relaxation and stress relief.

Stay connected

Caring for someone else can quickly take over your life- particularly if you also have a family and a job. It can be easy to become disconnected from friends and family as you spend most of your time supporting your loved one.

However, maintaining relationships with others is important. Make time to meet a friend for coffee, go out for dinner with your spouse, and let friends and family members know that you’d like to stay connected even when you’re busy.

Find social support

There are many different social groups available for carers, which means you can connect with people who have had some of the same experiences as you.

At Scalabrini we offer a Friendship Café where carers in the community get together once a month over a coffee. The groups can help you understand that your experiences and feelings are normal, and you can give and receive advice from people in similar situations as you- helping to reduce stress and anxiety. To find out more about this free service, please contact us on 1800 722 522.

Stay active

When we’re stressed and busy, exercise can often be the first thing to disappear from our schedules. But numerous studies have shown that exercise is an excellent way to manage stress, decrease overall levels of tension, improve sleep, stabilise and elevate moods, and improve self-esteem.

Exercising can also be valuable ‘You Time’, where you can block out the world for an hour and enjoy the endorphins that come with physical activity.

Visit your doctor regularly

Take time to get regular check-ups, and be aware of what your body is telling you. Pay attention to any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite or behaviour. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

Take a break

This is one of the caregiver tips you’ll need to pay the most attention to if you’re spending a lot of time looking after someone else. After all, there’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first.

We all need time for ourselves, and this is especially true for carers, who spend most of their time thinking about the needs of others. Stress relief for caregivers often involves simply taking a break from it all.

Make arrangements for some respite so you can take a few days or even a week of vacation time. This will allow you to recharge and refresh, and you’ll likely be an even better carer once you’ve taken time to relax. When you’re away, make sure you read a good book, watch that movie you’ve been meaning to see, take a nap, and talk about different things. Contact My Aged Care 1800 200 422 for information on respite services in your area.

Approximately 72% of people who provide care for an aging loved one are doing this without any outside help. That’s why you need to enlist the help of other friends and family members, or even a professional caregiver so you can take a break and prevent stress and burnout.

Are you wondering if an aged care facility could be the right choice for your loved one? Get in touch today to learn about life at Scalabrini.

https://www.verywellmind.com/caregiver-support-caregivers-and-stress-relief-3144520

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/australias-welfare-2017-in-brief/contents/ageing-and-aged-care

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/stress-management-dementia-caregivers-155666.htm

https://dailycaring.com/12-dementia-care-tips-caregivers-wish-theyd-known-sooner/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm

 

Thoughtful elderly man sitting alone at home with his walking cane

Tips to Help Aging Parents deal with Loneliness

We all get lonely sometimes, but the elderly are more vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness than most people. While it’s normal to occasionally feel lonely, long periods of loneliness can lead to depression.

If you have aging parents, it’s important to be on the lookout for signs that they’re feeling lonely and to have a strategy in place in the event that they begin to struggle with loneliness. This is because people who are lonely are more likely to die prematurely. Statistics show that loneliness is about as deadly as smoking and more dangerous to our health than obesity.

So what exactly is loneliness? The Encyclopedia of Human Relationships describes loneliness as ‘Distress resulting from discrepancies between perceived and ideal social relationships.’ This is why it’s possible for people to have a large group of friends and acquaintances and still feel lonely.

According to Psychology Today, there are many factors that impact how people respond to loneliness, and different people will respond to loneliness differently. However, there are a few key signs to look out for if you’re concerned about an elderly parent.

Your parent may be feeling lonely if you notice any of these signs:

They’re Shopping ’til They Drop

One study found that people who are lonely will often feel the need to accumulate possessions in an attempt to use material things to try to fill a void. Shopping will often provide a temporary happiness ‘boost,’ which can mask the symptoms of loneliness.

They’re Sleeping Poorly

Another study has linked feelings of anxiety and isolation to fragmented sleeping habits. If your parent seems to be more tired than they usually are, or are continually sleeping poorly, it may be a good idea to check if they’re getting enough social interaction during their day.

They’re Constantly Sick

Have you noticed that your parent constantly seems to be sick? A study from UCLA found that people who are lonely and socially isolated are more likely to have a weakened immune system than people who are getting enough social stimulation. That’s because the immune system begins to focus on bacteria, making it more likely that someone suffering from loneliness will pick up a virus.

They Keep Losing Weight

If your parent is beginning to look thinner, they may not be eating well. When they’re only cooking for one, it can seem like there’s little point in cooking a full meal- especially if they have also had changes in their appetite.

They’re Taking More Showers and Baths

Interestingly, a series of studies found that people who are lonely are more likely to take long, hot baths and showers to help themselves feel better. It turns out that there is a connection between loneliness and warmth, and humans feel lonelier when they’re cold.

They’re Watching a lot of TV

While people who are retired will naturally watch a little more TV than the rest of us, the University of Texas found that there’s a link between loneliness and binge-watching TV series. This is because TV can help us ‘switch off’ our bad feelings and it’s a good distraction from feelings of depression and loneliness. If you’ve noticed that your parent is spending more time than usually watching TV, they may be feeling lonely.

Helping Parents Deal with Loneliness

Social isolation and loneliness are strongly linked with depression, and studies have found that depression and loneliness tend to go hand-in-hand. That’s why it’s important to spot the signs that your parent is feeling lonely and nip it in the bud as soon as you can.

Here are a few ways you can help your parents fight loneliness:

Stay in Touch

This may seem obvious, but maintaining communication with your parents is a great way to help them beat loneliness. Of course, it’s easy to get busy with day-to-day life, so you may want to schedule a weekly call to catch up and let them know they’re important to you.

Encourage Socialisation

It can be easy to fall into a rut when you’re retired, especially if you haven’t been going out much. Encourage your parents to socialise and meet new people- or even sign up for some new hobbies or activities.

Learn Technology

Your parent may never have used a computer in their lives, but the internet is a wonderful way for them to meet new, like-minded people. Not only can Google and Facebook help them to find new meetups and classes in their area, but they can also use forums to chat with other people about a variety of interests and topics.

Talk to them about internet safety and the importance of not giving out any private information online. If you’re busy, your children may be available to help teach them the basics.

Introduce Volunteering

There are thousands of people who need a helping hand, and people who are dealing with loneliness will often find that volunteering is a great way to meet people. Not only does volunteering help them feel gratitude for their own situation, but they will get to share their own life experience and skills with their community.

Are your parents dealing with loneliness? They’ll have the opportunity to make friends and social connections at Scalabrini. Get in touch today to learn more.