NICE releases standards to improve mental health
Caring Times, February 2014
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published new standards to help care homes tackle loneliness, depression and low self-esteem in older people.
With the number of older people in the UK set to rise to 16 million over the next 20 years and more people living longer than ever before, NICE is advising that services should be configured to ensure they receive excellent care and support.
Professor Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at NICE, said: “As the UK prepares for the family-focused festivities of Christmas, NICE is issuing a timely reminder to care home staff not to forget about older people in their charge.
“Throughout the year, many people are looked after extremely well, but others may not be so fortunate. For instance, some care home workers may find it hard to look after someone who appears disengaged or depressed when actually all they might need is a little extra support to lead a more fulfilled life. A decline in mental wellbeing should not be viewed as an inevitable part of ageing.”
In 2011, there were slightly more than 10 million people over the age of 65 living in the UK with more than 400,000 living in care homes. Care homes provide many people with the extra support they need, but many are still not providing care that is focused on an individual’s needs.
The NICE standards recommend that older people in care homes are offered opportunities to participate in meaningful activities which promote health and mental wellbeing. In 2007, the Alzheimer’s Society highlighted that care home residents do not have the opportunity to take part in enough activities to occupy their time.
A lack of activity is one factor that can negatively affect a person’s mental wellbeing. The standard also addresses a problem that sometimes exists in older people gaining access to NHS services. It recommends that older people have the symptoms and signs of mental health conditions and physical problems recognised and recorded as part of their care plan, and that they have access to the full range of healthcare services when they need them.
Older people in care homes should also be supported to maintain and develop their personal identity. Focusing on the needs and wishes of an individual will help to promote dignity and respect and have a positive impact on their sense of identity and mental wellbeing. Professor Leng added: “It’s important for older people to feel secure, happy and empowered to take control of their care wherever possible to give them the best quality of life.
“We hope the standards we have published will give care homes the help they need to ensure they’re providing consistent, high-quality support for every person in their care.” The standards have been developed by an independent committee involving specialists in social care (including a care home representative and a director of adult social services) and public health as well as people with their own experience of the social care system. They are available to view on the NICE website.”