Practitioners meet to improve mental health of elderly in their community

14 May 2018  Connect

A GP on Sydney’s northern beaches, Stephen Ginsborg is a passionate advocate for the health and wellbeing of older Australians.  Stephen has worked in his practice for over 40 years, and in some cases has had the privilege of providing care for up to three generations in the one family. 

Believing there to be a significant lack of support for older peoples’ mental health, he and two other practitioners, with the support of Sydney North PHN, started MHPN’s Sydney Older Persons’ Network.  The network brings together up to 30 practitioners from the area who work with and support older people.

Many older Australians experience isolation, loss of independence, loneliness and losses of many kinds, such as bereavements.  Despite the psychological or emotional disorders associated with factors linked to ageing, most older people who live in residential aged care facilities don’t have access to a mental health treatment plan under the Better Access Medicare program. 

“Older people are a vulnerable group.  Unfortunately, their emotional support needs far exceed the capacity in our current system.  This network is one way our practitioner community can support them,” Dr Ginsborg said.

Sydney North PHN approached Stephen to work with them and MHPN to establish the network.   The network invites a range of practitioners who support older people to attend its meetings. 

The aim of bringing practitioners together is to encourage everyone involved to work together to ultimately improve service delivery, help manage illnesses and reduce avoidable hospitalisation.  Currently, the network has a large representation from psychologists, OTs, music therapists and art therapists, and is keen to encourage more GPs and other health practitioners to attend.   

The network focuses on discussing and learning about preventive strategies to improve mental health, so older people can avoid medication with all members providing input into selecting future meeting topics.  At the group’s February meeting, a guest speaker discussed art psychotherapy and its contribution to helping elderly people.  A music therapist and researcher presented to the group about how music supports people living with dementia and other age related mental health issues at the recent May meeting.     

"Participants love the meetings, and keep coming back.  Since we started, much interest has been generated in this neglected area of need.  While there is still a lot more to be done, this network has been very positive for the elders in our community,” Dr Ginsborg said.   

MHPN is extremely pleased that older peoples’ mental health has been made a priority in the recent budget announcements.

Currently, MHPN supports five Older Persons’ Networks  across Australia in partnership with the following PHNs; Perth North; Sydney North; Murray [Vic]; Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast; Northern Queensland.  Read more.

The North Sydney Older Persons’ Network is led by three coordinators, GP, Dr Stephen Ginsborg, Sydney North PHN Manager, Craig Parsons and Sally Cornelius from PIR Development, Community Care Northern Beaches.  To be invited to a meeting contact Jacqui O'Loughlin - Email or 03 8662 6604.