To mark Social Justice Sunday (30 August) and the release of Australian Catholic Bishops' social justice statement, VMCH will be sharing the experiences of staff who support the mental health and wellbeing of VMCH clients, including residents in aged care, a person with a disability, or carers looking after a loved one.

This week we hear about the experiences of Maria Carnovale, one of their 16 Pastoral Care Practitioners, who has been supporting aged care residents, their families and staff during this challenging time. Maria supports residents, their loved ones and our staff at Providence Aged Care Residence in Bacchus Marsh, and has witnessed many people struggling with mental health, particularly during this second wave.

How are residents coping?

Residents are missing their families and are concerned for their families. residents with a diagnosis of dementia, while not able to articulate, are sensing there is something not quite right. It has been particularly difficult for our new residents who have moved into aged care. Staff have been wonderful and are compassionate in their care. The In-Touch program is helping to keep families connected with video calls which is the next best thing.

How are families doing?

They are missing seeing their loved ones. There is also the heartbreaking news of COVID19 entering aged care facilities, which has family and carers very worried. Many family members have commented that receiving frequent communication which keeps them updated has been of consolation.

How are staff managing?

We are incredibly blessed to have wonderful staff at Providence who are dedicated and put the residents first. Of course, they are worried about their own families and worried about our residents. Some of our staff have family overseas and that is very difficult for them.

What kind of tips do you give residents, families and staff to help support their mental health?

  • Know you are not alone and there are valid reasons to be concerned, worried and feeling you are not coping. Seek professional help if you need to.
  • Meditate if you think it might help. There are many apps to guide you.
  • It is very important to have hope. Those who have their faith, “Do not be afraid”, “Fear not” is listed in the bible 365 times! God knew we would need to hear those words every day.
  • Spend time in quiet prayer and nourish your spirituality.
  • Focus on the beauty in nature and all the things we take for granted.
  • Do something you enjoy, take up a hobby and be creative. It is a way of escaping and giving yourself a break.
  • Don’t have the news on all day long. Keep up to date but then switch it off.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends. We are so fortunate to live in a time where we have so many platforms to help us do this.
  • Go for a walk or do some type of exercise.
  • Know that while it will take some time, we will overcome this. I gently remind our residents they have been through incredibly difficult times in their lives and they will get through this as well.