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Anyone for coffee? How social prescribing improves your patient’s quality of life

Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death than physical inactivity or obesity, write Dr Tegan Cruwys and Associate Professor Genevieve Dingle in an article that explores why isolated people visit their GP more often than their socially connected peers.

Their research shows positive outcomes if GPs screen for loneliness, followed by social prescribing or community referral to an appropriate service for those needing it.

“The evidence in support of social prescribing is growing, and this approach is being promoted in the UK by the new Minister for Loneliness,” write the Australian clinical psychologists.

RACGP Vice-President Charlotte Hespe says older Australians are among those who could benefit from social prescribing and many GPs are “likely already doing it – just without the name”.

A few non-threatening questions are enough to show if an older person is lonely or isolated and would benefit from referral to one of the non-profit organisation’s many home care, mental health and community programs, says Catholic Healthcare’s Elaine Goddard.

“For elderly patients with an existing DSM-5 diagnosis, it is useful to confirm that they have home-care services in place and checking if they are still connecting with those services,” says Ms Goddard, a psychiatric nurse with more than 14 years of experience in home and community care.

She says Catholic Healthcare support workers monitor their clients’ psychological wellbeing on every contact, regardless of whether they have a mental health diagnosis.

“Many people are very, very lonely. That in itself causes anxiety and depression. Just having someone to give them practical support or pop in for coffee can be the difference between functioning well or struggling.”

Carol Johns, a Home and Community Services Coordinator at Catholic Healthcare, says clients “absolutely love to connect with their care workers. Every interaction is important. A trip to a doctor’s appointment or the shops will invariably include a coffee and a chat.

“In our area, Bathurst, NSW, bingo at the club is a big favourite. Our mental health program takes clients out to social events, have a meal and connect with others. It is good for their whole wellbeing.”

To learn more about Catholic Healthcare’s mental health services and how we can care for your patients’ emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing call us on 1800 225 474. Our services are designed to empower your patients to live life on their terms, independently, in their own home.