A sad day for senior citizen

Norma Weir wants improved mental health services for people aged over 65, who live in Wyndham. Photo: Damjan Janevski

A Wyndham woman has called for improved treatment for senior citizens who have a mental illness, after her own experience with the health system.

Norma Weir, 65, who suffers from bi-polar depression, said she was feeling particularly sad one day near the end of July, a few weeks after her dog of 16 years had died.

Ms Weir said she called Lifeline, which in turn called an ambulance to take her to the Werribee Mercy Hospital.

She praised the triage team at the hospital as “wonderful”, but said she was surprised when they told her that she could not stay in the hospital, or the Werribee Mercy Psychiatric Unit, overnight.

Ms Weir said she was told people aged over 65, who sought help for mental health reasons from Werribee Mercy, could not be allocated a bed for the night, but instead had to be transferred to one of three Aged Persons Mental Health Inpatient Units.

The units are in St Albans, Broadmeadows and Bundoora, and service the north western catchment area of metropolitan Melbourne, including Wyndham.

Ms Weir said she was taken by ambulance to Bundoora, as it was the only place a bed was available that night. Ms Weir said she felt “absolutely, totally shocked and overwhelmed” by this and that she would have preferred to stay in Werribee, as it was much closer to home.

“I think it was silly that I couldn’t stay in Werribee, especially considering the millions of dollars that have been spent on the Werribee Mercy Psychiatric Unit.”

Mercy Hospitals Victoria mental health services program director Mario Blandin de Chalain said if people presented with a mental illness to Werribee Mercy Hospital and were aged 65 years or over, or if they were assessed to have an age-related illness, they would be referred to the Aged Psychiatry Assessment Team at Mid West Area Mental Health Service, which would assess the patient to see if they met aged care mental health criteria.

If they do meet the criteria, the patients are referred to the Bundoora, Broadmeadows or St Albans units.

“Older people who have an ongoing mental health issue and do not meet the aged care mental health criteria can still be treated at the Werribee Mercy Psychiatric Unit if there is a bed available,” Mr Blandin de Chalain said.

Star Weekly also contacted a representative of the Minister for Mental Health for comment.

Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for assistance.