BScN, RN, GNC(C) President,
Eldercare Home Health Inc.

Last night I, along with eight members of the Eldercare Home Health Care team, attended a dinner and presentation featuring John Thomas, who is a member of the geriatric mental health outreach team at Baycrest. John did a great job, as he always does, highlighting the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety in the elderly. He outlined some commonly prescribed medications and their side effects as well as reviewed the use of ECT.

There’s only so much that can be covered in an hour’s presentation and by all measures, John’s presentation was excellent. However, it was a reminder about the importance of our assessments as Registered Nurses and front line care providers and the scope of interventions possible for the care of older people. The interventions that do not involve medical “treatments”. Mental health treatment for seniors can include certain smells or even nature.

There are a multitiude of factors that contribute to our mental wellbeing-and absolutely the same is true of people who happen to be over 80 years old. Yes, there may be complicating features, but there are also many very basic healthy interventions that can be addressed;

There are seniors, who, for a variety of reasons, don’t eat well. There are those who are chronically dehydrated. Pain, particularly chronic pain, wreaks havoc on a person’s mental health.

Research has suggested that many interesting factors contribute to positive mood; exposure to Vitamin D, Vitamin B sufficiency, adequate daily doses of sunlight, an environment with pleasant odours (think lavendar, cinnamon and peppermint), meaningful life activity, pets, the company of others….to mention but a few important findings.

One of the happy coincidences with these kinds of interventions is that they have a distinct lack of serious side effects and many can be very cost effective and accomplished with a minimum of expense.

I know that John did not set out to exclude these important factors from his discussions last night, but I also know that they do not comprise the mainstay of his Practice (I did mention that he only had one hour!!).

But these kinds of considerations should be part of our Practice. I’m absolutely certain, in fact, that if we paid more attention to these basic healthy issues, only people who were truly ill would need medical interventions!

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