The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Australia performs very well in many measures of well being, ranking among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index. When it comes to well being, however, there are so many variables in age, gender and socio-economics that it seems practically impossible to determine a nation's veritable well-being. In terms of our ageing population, mental illness is particularly difficult to ascertain. In other demographics, we can base our findings on education, employment rates and economic viability in terms of average household income but for older people and aged care in Australia this is not so easy.

Over four-fifths of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm among older Australians in 2011–12 involved pharmaceutical drugs, most commonly benzodiazepines. This is a shocking result from The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). In their report on hospitalised injuries in older Australians the AIHW found, "Medications used to treat diabetes and manage pain were the most common drugs reported in cases of unintentional poisoning by pharmaceuticals for older Australians in 2011–12. The rates of poisoning were similar for men and women, increasing from a low of approximately 25 cases per 100,000 population at ages 65–69 to approximately 95 cases per 100,000 population at age 85 and over."

The report continues. "Two-thirds of intentional self-harm injuries occurred in the home (67%), with only minor differences in the proportions of men (65%) and women (69%) (data not shown). Place of occurrence was not specified in 18% of cases. Locations around the home differed slightly, with men self-harming in outdoor areas (3%) or the garage (3%) a little more often than women (1% for both). Women, however, were a little more likely to select the bedroom, 7% compared with 5% for men. Seven per cent of self-harm cases occurred in an aged care or residential institution and 3% occurred in a health service area."

In an article by Sui Learner from 11 August 2014, self-harm and suicide are "a big problem for older people." Unfortunately, mental illness is still taboo for many Australians, especially those who make up our ageing population. Sadly it is the elderly who are proving to be most at risk of depression and suicide. "Consequently," reports Learner, "it is vital for home care workers, relatives and friends to be aware of the symptoms of depression and to keep a look out for them." Mr Mark Beeby, owner of home care provider, Right at Home Trafford in the United Kingdom, believes wholeheartedly in the socialisation of older people. Learner sites "A recent report by the Policy Exchange think tank called for the Government to invest nearly £1bn in teaching older people basic internet skills such as how to send an email and using social media such as Facebook and Twitter." To read the full article go to http://www.homecare.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1564795/stigma-mental-illness-older-people-depression?utm_content=7260933&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.

There are state based initiatives to recognise and support care relationships for older Australians. In Victoria, the Government implemented an Action Plan for 2006–2009 to improve recognition of, and support for, care relationships for older Victorians through policy and service development and delivery. This initiative by the Victorian Government highlighted that "Older people often experience adverse events and poor outcomes following admission or presentation to Health Services. In response to this, the policy was drafted to help improve care for older people, with the aim of changing the approach to older people's health care in Victoria. Their hope was to "gain a greater understanding of, and insight into the complexities of older people's health care needs, improve coordination and integration of services and adopt a strong person-centred approach to care and services."

In South Australia, their Government implemented a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy 2010-2015, outlining the improvements they aim to achieve for older people:

- Ensure integration and co-ordination of mental health services for older people across the primary health, aged care and specialist mental health sectors in South Australia.

- Ensure that the needs of older Australians with early onset geriatric conditions, including dementia, are addressed through general and specialist mental health services.

- Support government and community initiatives that support healthy ageing strategies and facilitate illness prevention and early intervention, including helping older people reduce or manage risk factors for the onset of mental illness.

If you would like to find out more about caring for older people and aged care in Australia, contact Right at Home Australia on 1300 362 609, or visit their website at http://www.rightathome.com.au/.

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