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Investigating the mental health status of a residential care community: Does eccentricity count?

McDonald, T. A., 2008

19th International Nursing Research Conference, Singapore


Background: The impressions of undergraduate students of people in their eighties and nineties has been observed to influence them to make assumptions about eccentric and sometimes larrikin answers to their assessment questions that highlighted a limited range of student understanding of older people, their sense of humour and their lifestyle choices. Misinterpretation of attempts at cultural references and humour across a multi-generation divide risks students coming to conclusions about mental capacity of older adults that may be incorrect.

Objective: To establish a baseline assessment of mental health status of older adults in residential care hostels and nursing home contexts

Methods: Baseline mental health data collected from 420 residents during September to December 2007 at the RSL ANZAC Village at Narrabeen has been used for this study of mental health in residential care. The assessments were conducted by final year nursing undergraduates under supervision by registered nurses and covered all but 10 of the total resident population. Consenting participants were assessed for mental health status using established assessment scales: (1) Psychogeriatric Assessment Scale (PAS); (2) Cornell Scale for Depression; (3) Dementia Behaviour Disturbance Scale; and (4) Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). As well, Behaviour Charts were used along with DSM-IV Assessments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as indicated.

Results: The results of each of the assessment scales is presented and correlated to reveal links between the different scales across the village hostels and nursing home population. Critique is provided of the suitability of some mental health assessments for people who are older; who are in residential village life; who are mentally confused and who are physically dependent upon others for care.

Conclusions: Mental health status can be measured in terms of individual perceptions as well as group and community levels of mental health. The evidence suggests that older people are flexible in their lifestyle choices and are willing to compromise for the benefit of the community and that this attitude has a mental health enhancing effect. Younger people, ie students, may not be so flexible in their attitudes about life and diversity.

CITATION McDonald, T. A. (2008) Investigating the mental health status of a residential care community: Does eccentricity count? 19th International Nursing Research Congress Focusing on Evidence-based Practice: Research Sessions. Suntec Singapore International Exhibition and Convention Centre, July.


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