The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

Employees at elderly care homes urged to notify GPs of residents who need mental health support

Shona Berger Thursday, 14 January 2021, 07:30 Last update: about 6 days ago

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in some way, but concerns have been especially high over the impact the pandemic is having on the mental wellbeing and mental health of the elderly residing in residential care homes.

For many elderly people, particularly those living in residential care homes but also those who have been living on their own, the pandemic has meant a prolonged period of isolation, loneliness, confusion, a loss of physical contact with their loved ones and an end to even the most basic of social interactions, all contributing factors to a detoriation in mental health.

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The strict rules and regulations put in place to safeguard the health and safety of residents and staff members in residential homes, which are necessary to protect this vulnerable group from the virus, has also left many elderly to die alone without even being able to say goodbye to their loved ones.

“Employees in residential care homes are encouraged to bring to the attention of the GPs, geriatricians and home manager, cases which might merit mental health support”, the Minister for Senior Citizens and Active Ageing Michael Farrugia told The Malta Independent..

The minister was asked to detail what the government is doing to support the mental health of elderly people within residential care homes. He detailed that certain strategies and programmes have been put in place to support the elderly as much as possible.

Minister Farrugia said that the Active Ageing and Community Care Group inludes a psychotherapist to support the mental health of the elderly people within residential homes. The Active Ageing and Community Care Group is a government led organisation which seeks the optimal wellbeing and quality of life for elderly people. It aims to work with the elderly and support them so that they can continue to enjoy life to their maximal potential in their individual settings.

He added that all residents living in government and public-private partnership residential care homes are able to avail themselves of this service.

In addition, Farrugia said that professional staff working in care homes refer particular cases to the psychotherapist who then handles the necessary required interventions in the residential homes. The psychotherapist liases with the physicians and home managers accordingly.

Minister Farrugia said that residents may benefit from possible therapeutic interventions, which are not limited to dealing with “bereavement situations, maladjustment situations after recent admission to a residential home, behavioural issues, adjustment to a new physical condition, experiencing severe loneliness and mental health issues related to social restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

He added that “in view of the current situation, continuing to listen to and support these residents helps give them the necessary support and therapy that they might require.”

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