The policy issue under study is the need to pay more attention to the mental health needs of elder people, both the ones, who receive informal care, and residential care users. This need directly stems from Centers for Disease Prevention quantitative studies. While more than 20 per cent of Americans aged 55 or more, experience at least one mental health concern, lots of senior citizens report that they have never received adequate social and emotional support. One of most wide-spread conditions among the elders is depression that is seldom reported, and treated (Steffens et al, 2009, p.887).
For the purposes of meeting this need I would like to suggest launching public campaign, aimed at promoting parity between psychical and mental illnesses, and design raising awareness activities for informal care providers, geriatric nurses and doctors. The issue is of great importance for healthcare against the background of the growing role of geriatric care, determined by pervasive population aging trend.
Legislative visit plan
In order to transfer the recommendations I have formulated above and see them implemented at the level of Atlanta city, I would like to organize a legislative visit to the office of Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Lance Bottoms. Mrs. Bottoms has gained a significant experience in elaborating on and implementing policies in social sphere. I can contact her staff to arrange a meeting either via an email or by phone.
I would like to arrange the meeting as soon as possible in the office of Mrs. Keisha Lance Bottoms in Atlanta City Hall.
As far as I know, first of all, I will need to explain my interest towards the issue by telling some kind of a personal story. At this stage I will refer to the fact that I personally know many senior citizens, who seem to suffer from different types of mental health concerns, especially depression, called forth by retirement and the lack of affiliations. Particularly this fact made me interested in exploring the linkage between aging and the state of mental health, and the results of this exploration showed that aging is directly interconnected with the growing risks of mental health concerns, and mental health concerns represent a significant threat to the wellbeing of senior citizens (WHO, 2013).
After having briefly outlined the nature and scope of the issue, I will be able to refer to it in broader terms and use statistics to substantiate my concern. Apart from using CDC (2008) report “The state of mental health and aging in America”, I will also present the statistics on prevalence of mental health concerns in Americans, developed by Federal interagency forum on ageing-related statistics (2012). The message I will try to convey during the introductory part of my presentation will relate to the seriousness of the issue both in terms of providing effective healthcare and promoting wellbeing of senior citizens.
After the City Council Member gets my first message, I will transfer to my vision of the reasons that lead to the fact that many elders suffer from mental health concern without both reporting their concerns to informal care and residential care givers and receiving any kind of emotional and social support.
In this part of my presentation it will be necessary to refer to the latent nature of the issue and the fact that in case of some conditions (e.g., depression) many people may prefer not to report their concerns, because of considering them not so serious by comparison with the ones related to the state of their physical health. Apart from describing the trend of underestimating mental health concerns in the older citizens by themselves (Ruppel et al., 2010, p. 38), it will be necessary to outline the perspectives of geriatric nurses and doctors. The message I will convey during the second part of the presentation will concentrate on the latent nature of the issue that calls forth the need to draw attention to it and raise awareness about it, so that it can be approached more effectively by both the care users and care providers.
The third part will include the recommendations and my vision of their implementation’s influence on the state of the issue in Atlanta. The first recommendation lies in launching a public campaign, aiming at explaining the notion of parity between physical and mental health to the target group, namely, the elderly, who receive formal care. This campaign should be implemented in residential care settings, and promote viewing health as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing (WHO, 1948).
It is expected that the campaign will make elders more open to reporting their mental health concerns and receiving emotional care. In order to reach the elders, who receive informal care, it is suggested to elaborate on the TV version of the campaign. The campaign is to include self-assessment instruments that can help the elders determine whether they need care. Success of the campaign can be guaranteed by the high level of senior citizens’ trust both to medical staff and TV messages.
The second recommendation concerns launching raising awareness campaign on the link between aging and mental health concerns among geriatric nurses and doctors, who work with the elderly in order to draw their attention to the need to trace emotional condition of the patients and provide them with necessary support and care.
The importance of implementing this recommendation lies in the fact that both nurses and doctors can lack mental health issues-related knowledge and, therefore, underestimate the importance of mental health issues for providing quality geriatric care.
During the meeting I will mention that I have already communicated several NGOs that deal with the rights of the vulnerable groups in healthcare sphere at the federal level, and they have shared with me some experiences and best practices on conducting public campaigns among the elderly. Furthermore, I have studied the curricula of some courses on geriatric psychiatry and psychology, and have identified several professors that can be involved into running raising awareness campaign among doctors and medical staff. Finally, I contacted some Atlanta human rights NGOs that expressed their readiness to unite their efforts in order to implement both campaigns I am suggesting. So, I will underline that the project currently requires more organizational, rather than financial help, so that the project can get the status of policy, and be fully implementable.
Apart from asking for particular kinds of help, I would also like to ask the Member of City Council to express her ideas about the issue and suggestions for the way the recommendations and their implementation can be run. In terms of the meeting I will try to be as brief as possible, taking into account time constraints, and will prepare a presentation to outline my ideas.
It is evident that success of the meeting is crucial for the future of the recommendations regarding the issues of mental health concerns in the elderly. The campaigns can be still run as an NGOs-based projects; nevertheless, as a policy it will be able to address far broader target group, and change its scale. If a meeting is success and the recommendations get reflected in a policy, it is expected that more attention will be paid to mental health conditions of senior citizens, especially the ones, receiving care in formal settings.
After the meeting I will stay in touch with the Member of Council, and inform her on the preparatory activities of the NGOs I have contacted before, as well as continue keeping track on similar projects, developed in the USA, and statistics. In the meantime, I can also directly address nurses and doctors at professional conferences, so that they get more aware about the issue of interconnections between aging and mental health policies.
This paper is aimed at presenting a plan for the legislative meeting with Atlanta City Council Mrs. Keisha Lance Bottoms. In terms of the meeting I plan to address the issue of the mental health needs of the elderly, emphasize latent nature of the issue, as well as refer to two campaigns I would suggest implementing in order to draw attention to it and improve existing situation. Successful transfer of the plan into policy is beneficial for revealing the issue of prevalence of mental health concerns among the elderly and providing them with quality care and support. The plan targets both the elders, who receive informal and residential care.
CDC (2008). The state of mental health and aging in America. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services
Federal Interagency Forum on Population Aging (2012). Older Americans. Key indicators of well-being. Retrieved 25 January 2014 from http://www.agingstats.gov/Main_Site/Data/2012_Documents/docs/EntireChartbook.pdf
Ruppel, S. E., Jenkins, W. J., Griffin, J. L., &Kizer, J. B. (2010). Are they depressed or just old? A study of perceptions about the elderly suffering from depression. North American Journal Of Psychology, 12(1), 31-42.
Steffens, D., Fisher, G., Langa, K., Potter, G., &Plassman, B. (2009). Prevalence of depression among older Americans: the Aging, Demographics and Memory Study. International Psychogeriatrics, 21(5), 879-888
World Health Organization (1948). Definition of health. Retrieved 25 January 2014 from http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/print.html
World Health Organization (2013). Mental Health and older adults factsheet No 381. Retrieved 25 January 2014 from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs381/en/