Investigating the Mental Health Status of a Residential Care Community: Does Eccentricity Count?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008: 8:50 AM
Tracey T. A. McDonald, RN, PhD, MsC(Hons), RM, BHA, DipEd , Faculty of Health Sciences, ACU National, Australia, North Sydney, 2059, Australia

Learning Objective 1: To differentiate between psychiatric assessment scales in terms of their accurate reflection of older people and their mental health

Learning Objective 2: To identify difficulties associated with student understanding of older people, their sense of humour and their lifestyle choices


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


In this research people living in hostels and nursing home contexts 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.


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.

The impressions of undergraduate students of people in their eighties and nineties led them occasionally 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.


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.


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. You