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Introduction

This essay addresses a particular primary health nursing role and client group in Australia. Using primary healthcare principles for approachable and comprehensive care, community mental health nurses (CMHNs) are crucial in providing mental health services to the elderly. Furthermore, CMHNs also play an essential role in identifying and meeting the specific mental health needs of the elderly, using cognitive assessments and screening tools while encouraging client empowerment. The diverse socioeconomic characteristics of Australia's older population provide a foundation for recognizing a pertinent health issue: social isolation and loneliness. These problems may significantly impact the elderly mental and physical health (Kung et al. 2021). The essay will suggest a non-educational approach to health promotion that aligns with the Ottawa Charter and focuses on proactive healthcare service reorientation, age-friendly surroundings, and community engagement. Primary health nurses can successfully address the stated health requirements, reduce social isolation and loneliness, and enhance the general well-being of the elderly by using these measures.

Primary health nurse role and client group

In Australia, Community Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) are crucial in providing mental health treatment to the elderly. They integrate their practice with primary healthcare concepts to guarantee complete, easily accessible, and client-centred care (Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (AGDHA) 2021). The importance of CMHNs and their contribution to the well-being of the elderly are highlighted in this context by Australian research. CMHNs play an essential role in assessment and evaluation. Considering the frequency of illnesses like anxiety, depression, dementia, and other mental health illnesses in this group, they undertake thorough examinations to determine the unique mental health needs of the elderly (Tan & Goh 2022). For instance, an investigation by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that depression in older Australians is severe. Furthermore, the elderly population was found to be at risk for poor mental health residing in residential care facilities. In 2019, 87% of long-term residential care facility patients were diagnosed with at least one mental health or behavioural problem, and 49% had depression (AIHW 2023). To identify these problems early and provide customised care regimens that adhere to the fundamentals of primary healthcare, CMHNs use established screening instruments.

Additionally, CMHNs conduct cognitive evaluations to evaluate cognitive functioning and jointly design ways to support elderly clients in coping with cognitive decline. The elderly make decisions about their care in this method, which adheres to holistic care and empowerment ( AGDHAC 2021). The duty of CMHNs also includes addressing socioeconomic factors that affect mental health. They assess elements that are important for the mental health of the elderly, such as loneliness, home stability, financial security, and access to social support networks. Additionally, CMHNs consider how closely linked both mental and physical well-being. As a component of their holistic approach to care, CMHNs identify and treat these physical health requirements, supporting overall wellness and preventing the deterioration of mental health conditions. This supports the fundamental tenets of primary healthcare by highlighting the significance of health promotion and preventative measures (AGDHAC 2021).

Client group health needs and health issues

The demographics of Australia's older population provide a clear image of a diverse group dealing with particular health issues. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the number of elderly people is steadily rising, making up a sizeable share of the Australian population. In Australia, the proportion of people 65 and older has grown to 16.2% in 2021 (ABS 2021). Another distinguishing feature is cultural diversity, which may make it difficult for many elderly immigrants from different backgrounds to get the right healthcare treatments due to language and cultural limitations. The elderly are spread out over urban and rural locations, and those in the latter have difficulty receiving healthcare because of physical limitations. The well-being of the elderly is influenced significantly by socioeconomic variables, as economic uncertainty and insecure housing are common problems for this population (Australian Government 2019).

Social isolation and loneliness are potential health problems resulting from these demographic factors. According to research by Jang & Tang (2022), a sizeable fraction of the older population faces a risk of loneliness and social isolation. These problems may be worsened by the linguistic and cultural hurdles that immigrant people must overcome. Furthermore, elderly people are more likely to experience social isolation due to a lack of access to transportation, substandard housing, and social interaction opportunities, which can worsen their mental health (Donovan & Brazer 2020). Numerous research and statistics from the ABS in Australia have connected loneliness and social exclusion to several detrimental health outcomes. The risk of acquiring depressive disorders, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disorders, and a compromised immune system is higher in socially isolated elderly people (Freak-Poli et al. 2022).

Proposed non-educational health promotion response

To address the urgent health issue of social isolation and loneliness among the elderly, community mental health nurses (CMHNs) are essential. CMHNs can use various health promotion techniques indicated in the Ottawa Charter, such as creating supportive environments, strengthening community action, reorienting health services, and building healthy public policy to address this issue efficiently (Australian Health Promotion n.d). Firstly, CMHNs can advocate policies encouraging the elderly to participate in social activities and their communities. For instance, they can advocate for developing accessible public areas, parks, and community centres that encourage social interaction among the elderly (Yodsuban et al. 2022). To promote outdoor activities and meetings, these spaces can be planned with cozy seating places, strolling trails, and shaded sections (Perry et al. 2020). Secondly, CMHNs can contribute to creating environments that encourage social contact by collaborating closely with neighbourhood and community organisations. They can support creating neighbourhood programs catering to senior citizens, such as elderly clubs and community gardens. (Jagroep et al. 2022). Community gardens offer a setting for exercise and intergenerational interactions because younger community members may work alongside the elderly (Scott et al. 2019).

Thirdly, the elderly and their loved ones can be actively encouraged to engage in social gatherings and community activities by CMHNs. They can plan events, group activities, and gatherings that are geared toward the interests and preferences of elderly citizens. These could include excursions, gaming evenings, or community service initiatives (Fakoya et al. 2021). Fourthly, CMHNs may ensure that the elderly have choices that fit their unique tastes by offering various options, which can improve feelings of community connection and belonging (Suragarn et al. 2021). Lastly, incorporating social and mental health assessments into routine aged healthcare examinations is critical. CMHNs can collaborate closely with medical professionals to spot patients at risk of social isolation. They can then assist in making the proper referrals to neighbourhood services, support networks, or mental health specialists. CMHNs may ensure that elders' emotional and mental well-being is as essential as their physical health by implementing this comprehensive approach to healthcare (Seah et al. 2022).

Conclusion

In conclusion, in Australia, Community Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) are essential in meeting the unique mental health requirements of the aged population. CMHNs examine, evaluate, and offer specialised treatment regimens to address problems, including loneliness, social isolation, and cognitive decline, focusing on holistic care and empowerment. The need for this specialised care is highlighted by the vast demographic makeup of Australia's senior population, which includes cultural diversity and socioeconomic issues. Language and cultural limitations worsen loneliness and social isolation, increasing the risk of depression, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular issues. A non-educational approach to health promotion is necessary to address these issues. These initiatives are governed by the Ottawa Charter principles, which strongly emphasise community engagement and empowerment. CMHNs can collaborate with community organisations, advocate for age-friendly communities, and refocus healthcare services to place a higher priority on social well-being. CMHNs can lessen the negative impacts of social isolation by actively involving the elderly in social activities, fostering supportive surroundings, and providing them with coping mechanisms.

References

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