Older adults may experience particularly complex interactions between mental health problems (such as depression or anxiety), cognitive difficulties (such as dementia) and chronic physical illnesses that may be associated with ageing.
Common issues faced by older people are:
- Coping alone
- Physical decline
- Retirement and loss of role.
Other topics which are often addressed:
- Anxiety management
- Relaxation skills
- Links to outside occupational and leisure outlets
- Fall prevention
- Exercise for the older person.
While functional skills which need to be addressed are:
- Cooking (meal planning, meals in minutes, cooking for one)
- Mental aerobics (staying mentally fit)
- Memory compensation
- Memory rehabilitation skills.
The Mental Health of Older Adults Programme in St Patrick's Mental Health Services specialises in the mental healthcare of the elderly with a focus on depression and dementia in later life. The overall aims of the service are to facilitate and promote wellness and functional independence. While individual service user’s difficulties are taken into account, intervention is always focused on the restoration, rehabilitation and compensation of their skills.
The main strength of the Mental Health of Older Adults Programme is its holistic nature. Groups focus on the barriers to good quality of life rather than on diagnoses.
Evergreen Programme overview
The Evergreen Programme is a group-based programme designed to provide for the needs of service users aged 65 years and older at St Patrick's Mental Health Services. The ‘Evergreen’ title symbolises strength over adversity and is reflective of the Programme's aim to actively engage and support older adults in their journey of recovery and wellbeing.
What is the content of the Evergreen Programme?
The content of the Evergreen Programme is responsive and adaptive to the diverse needs of older adults and those who care for them, exploring various key themes including:
- Growing older and changing patterns of activity
- Social relationships and maintaining friendships
- Caring for others, caring for self
- Maintaining mental wellbeing
- Safety at home and in the community
- Understanding and managing medications
- Community mobility and transportation
- Making the most of your memory
- Maintaining physical wellbeing
Who delivers the Evergreen Programme?
The Evergreen Programme is facilitated by all members of the Mental Health of Older Adults Service and incorporates a broad range of inputs and approaches designed to meet the diverse needs of older adults living with or risk of relapse from mental illness, including psychiatry, occupational therapy, social work, psychology, pharmacy, physiotherapy and nursing.
The programme is also supported by a number of activities and volunteer staff who provide opportunities for engagement in varied diversional activities including arts and crafts, pet therapy, computers and exercise.
Evergreen Programme groups
The content of groups is based on recovery principles and aims to empower and support older adults living with mental health difficulties and illnesses in their journey of recovery and wellbeing.
The following information provides a brief overview of the content of the various groups:
Psychiatry- ‘Doctor's Wellness Discussions’
The ‘Doctor’s Wellness Discussion’ groups focus on health topics of direct relevance to older adults, with reference to the concept of quality of life as a key marker of how we perceive our health status.
The groups discuss various issues ranging from physical illness (with emphasis on prevention and taking personal responsibility for one’s own health) to the meeting of key emotional needs and attainment of greater psychological wellbeing in later life.
The life stages and developmental challenges that accompany later life are continually alluded to in group, as are strategies to overcome personal obstacles or setbacks in our environment, thus building resilience and increasing our expectations of life in later years.
Occupational Therapy- ‘Creating a Wellness Lifestyle’
The ‘Occupational Therapy’ group focuses on empowering participants to enact positive lifestyle changes, altering their approaches to daily activities and routines in order to enhance functionality, health and wellbeing.
Group sessions provide an overview of topics relevant to older adults including maintaining a balanced and satisfying lifestyle, productivity/work, caring for self and others, leisure enhancement, safety at home and in the community and community mobility and transportation issues.
Social Work- ‘Changes and Transitions’
The ‘Social Work’ group explores the various role transitions and changes associated with the ageing process, as well as the importance of building and sustaining a strong support network in later years.
Group sessions provide an overview of relevant topics including losses in later life; understanding grief; building resilience; and steps towards creating a strong support system. Occasionally, other topics such as elder abuse and community services/supports will be reviewed.
Pharmacy- ‘Safe Use of Medications’
The ‘Pharmacy’ group covers a range of topics including common psychiatric drug treatments, how ageing can affect drug treatments as well as general information relevant to all medicines. Strategies to improve medication awareness and monitoring are explored and advice is given on how to deal with common drug side-effects.
Nursing- ‘Activity Group’
The ‘Nursing’ group explores a broad range of topics relevant to maintaining the mental and physical wellbeing of older adults. Group sessions explore such topics as sleep hygiene, maintaining safety, falls prevention, medication compliance and positive goal setting.
Psychology- ‘Mind Matters’
The ‘Psychology’ group focuses on exploring changes to cognition and memory as part of the normal ageing process. Strategies to make the most of mental abilities in later life are explored.
Various activity and volunteer groups are held as part of the programme which promotes participation in various diversional activities including pet therapy, exercise and computers.