#34 What are the Signs and Steps to Psychological Support in Late Life?

Season #3

What are the signs and steps to psychological support in late life

I get a lot of emails from people asking about the signs and steps to psychological support in late life. For example, maybe you’ve identified that a client or family member needs help, but are unsure of the next step. Or perhaps you’re not sure whether support is even necessary.

An older person may say they don’t need help, even if they do. This age group is the least likely to engage support, often because they don’t understand the benefits.

So firstly, it’s really important to identify the signs that indicate psychological support might be needed.

It could be that you notice they are having difficulty adjusting to their environment or are struggling with grief. Changes in their life or in their roles can also play a part. For example, they may have recently gone from living independently to needing care and support. Accepting these big changes in what they are able to do in their daily life is a huge adjustment.

Many of these circumstances are unavoidable. What we are looking for is the older person’s ability to adapt, both internally and externally.

Remember to look for signs in a range of areas, such as emotions, thoughts, behaviours and physical changes. They may feel anger, guilt or sadness, or think life is overwhelming. They may behave differently, avoid activities and want to stay home. A lack of motivation, weight loss or gain and changes in sleep may also be observed.

If you do notice signs, how much are they impacting the quality of their life? And where is the line that you draw when you say, okay, we need to do something about this? The rule of thumb is, if the signs have persisted for more than a couple of weeks, we should seek support.

The first step is generally to speak to a GP to seek advice and arrange a referral for psychological services. I recommend you do this sooner rather than later. However, if you think there is an imminent risk of harm to themselves, it’s essential you act immediately.

Things have changed and mental health professionals now realise that it’s important to make psychological services accessible, easy and affordable to those in late life, so a lot more travel to visit residents in their home. Telehealth is now accepted as a normal way of delivering services and support, so if an older person has concerns about leaving their home and home visits are not available, it is still possible to get help. There is also a range of supports available that don’t require a GP referral such as Swinburne University Wellbeing Clinic for Older Adults.

We need to let older people know that it is normal to seek help when it is needed. Support is there and sometimes it’s just a phone call away.


In this episode you will learn:

  • What are the signs that indicate psychological support is needed?
  • How do you know when you should take the first steps to access support?
  • Where can you access psychological support for those in late life?
  • How can you help if the older person is reluctant to access support?
  • Why educating older people on the benefits of support is important.




Swinburne University Wellbeing Clinic for Older Adults

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement

Learn more strategies for delivering positive care in my book Beyond the Reluctant Move