Older people without adequate social connections have an increased risk of poorer mental health and well-being, negatively impacting on their physical health and use of health services. So we believe that social isolation and loneliness of older people in our area as particularly significant.
Our End of Life Care report in 2017 identified that GPs don’t always have the time, skills and support to help their patients with conversations around the end of life and if they do it is often done in times of crisis when it is too late to alter conditions.
In responses to this, we are working in partnership with the Australian College of Mental Health Nurse to pilot a model to improve social connectedness of older people. This project is aimed at reducing isolation and loneliness through the implementation of a compassionate community approach in the Hawkesbury community. Older Australians who are assessed by their primary health care professional as having, of being at high risk of, mental health and health conditions that are associated with social isolation and/or loneliness will be better supported in the community.
This pilot is being evaluated by the Centre for Health Service Development (CHSD), Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong.
As part of this initiative, we will co-design and deliver a two-year pilot project focusing on sustainable ways to increase the social connectedness of older Australians who are assessed by their primary healthcare professional as having, or being at high risk of, mental health and health conditions that are associated with social isolation and/or loneliness.
Our Social Connectedness of Older People in the Hawkesbury project recently held three Community Co-Designed Workshops in the Hawkesbury region.
Over one hundred professionals, volunteers and community members participated, working on improving connections for socially isolated older people in the Hawkesbury.
Following the workshops, a Steering Committee has been established, and three working groups are now being formed to progress focusing on some of the key themes identified by the community.
The working groups priorities will include: "Connecting with the Socially Isolated - Identifying the Unidentified", "Service Provider Networking and Community Awareness" and "Improving Transport and Volunteering in the Hawkesbury".
Our community development worker has been engaging with local services to map the existing formal and informal supports to develop a new online directory to be launched in October.
An Expression of Interest will soon be made available to pilot Health Connectors in three GP practices in the Hawkesbury. Community Connector training will be an additional opportunity for people in the community to be involved to support this initiative.
To find out more contact Liz Murphy, Project Officer on 4708 8100 or contact us online.