By Yasmin Noone
Repair the physical infrastructure damaged by the Queensland floods but don’t forget about the older people affected by the disaster, and the need to rebuild and replenish community spirit.
The Queensland Alliance has warned that, in the midst of infrastructure repair, older people living in their own homes may become socially isolated as community activities could slip down the priority ‘to do’ list.
The peak body for the mental health community sector has therefore called upon all community and aged care organisations to do their best to run social activities for older people, while also continuing the huge clean up task at hand over the next weeks and months.
“One of the risks of the disaster is that people may become isolated and if they are dealing with the impact of floods and financial issues then they can feel overwhelmed,” said CEO of Queensland Alliance, Jeff Cheverton.
“I think that we know that, in general, some older people can become quite isolated and that with services like Meals on Wheels, the chat is often just as important as the meal itself.
“Obviously, many older people are active, and engaged in volunteer work. But for some, getting out of home can be quite a challenge, so we need to make a special effort to ensure that they come together with other people and share their experience.”
Mr Cheverton’s comments follow the recent release of the report, Rising to the Challenge, which presents the information obtained from sixty-five mental health organisations, which participated in an Alliance survey.
The report found that 37 per cent of survey respondents had already experienced an increase in demand on services, although most in flood affected areas were still struggling to support existing clients.
Around 19 per cent of member organisations (which assist people with mental health needs) were directly affected by the floods, while 7.5 per cent lost their premises.
“So there’s a double whammy at the time they need community and residential aged care services, which may have been taken out of business because of floods. That means everyone’s going to be a little more stretched than they already were.”
The findings also showed that demand for low to medium cost rental housing is likely to escalate in the worst affected areas.
Mr Cheverton said that the mental health needs of staff should also be addressed, especially if they were responsible for the care of older people, stranded by the floods.
“People may not realise that the reason they are feeling the way that way they is the result of the floods. In a sense, it doesn’t matter if that is the cause or not.
“But just be a little aware that we are all under stress at the moment. We need to keep in touch with our feelings and not be so hard on ourselves.
“Our advice is when you’re ready, talk to other people who care about what has happened, be with your family and friends and accept the support of the people who care for you.
“And most importantly take the time to do the things you enjoy. [Remember], this is a marathon not a sprint, you need to take time out to have some fun. Get some relaxation rather than focusing on all of the media coverage and the disaster itself.
“Laughter is the best medicine so take time to have some time [to laugh] in the midst of this terrible situation. It can help.”
The Alliance represents a significant number of organisations throughout the sunshine state, which specifically service older people including RSL Care, Southern Cross Community Care (QLD), Anglicare, Ozcare and more.
To contact Lifeline call 13 11 14 or click here.