Age UK reports that over 3.6 million older people in the UK live alone, of whom over 2 million are aged over 75. Of these people, over 1.9m will often feel ignored or invisible.
Thinking about mental health for older people, naturally, you begin to think about Alzheimer’s or dementia, but its startling just how many older people suffer in silence, with less overt mental health problems. This is both tragic on an individual level and collectively as a society. We all pay the cost of this unhappiness both in terms of quality of life, and then financially as more often than not leads to loss of independence and dependency.
Quite naturally, loneliness and social isolation impact a person’s wellbeing. This often causes; depression, sleep problems, impaired cognitive health, heightened vascular resistance, hypertension, psychological stress and mental health problems to name a few.
For people who receive social care in their home, proliferation of mental health conditions tends to be higher than the general population. A 2016 study analysing the data of about 30,000 home care users determined the prevalence of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety to be as high as 40 percent. Of those who reported experiencing mental health symptoms, however, only a third also reported receiving mental health supports and services. If we apply this to the UKHCA reported 506,092 older people in receipt of local authority funded home care services in 2017/18, it suggests that over 200,000 people are experiencing some form of mental health symptoms and 66,000 do not receive the required support.
C.Co have been working with Adult Social Care Commissioners and Providers for a number of years now and we firmly believe adapting the current model of care presents a huge opportunity for the UK. Adapting the homecare model, offers the opportunity to significantly improve the quality of peoples lives whilst at the same time taking a more preventative approach which reduces the overall cost on society.
Older adults need people in their lives who know them well enough to detect the beginnings of a downward spiral and care enough to pull them out. Home care workers, by virtue of providing services regularly and in people’s homes, are uniquely positioned to take on this task. However, As we are seeing, worryingly, as costs increase, margins are squeezed to the point where companies are either going bankrupt or deciding to pull out of local authority contracts altogether there is little incentive or scope for them to stay in the sector, let alone work to attract the new investment required to create the extra capacity that will be needed to support mental health of the country’s growing population of older people.
A model based more on prevention is possible and will certainly be more cost effective (the cost benefit analysis has already been agreed with the treasury through previous public service reform programmes). The building blocks are already there. Asset based approaches, reablement, community health services, integrated teams, willing commissioners and providers et al. Homeworkers can play pivotal roles as the jam in the sandwich, bringing all of this together.
And at the heart of this must be collaboration between the market and local authorities – knowing that by working together, recognising the challenges faced, give and take on both sides and thinking differently about how services are commissioned, the sector meet the rising demand its faces for services.
C.Co, can work with you to engage your market, understand the cost of care, help set sustainable care fees and provide evidence-based options for future commissioning models. Why not get in touch with us today to find out more – SpeakToUs@WeAreC.Co