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Aging + Mental Health Initiatives in the SE Research Centre—Research and Action

Aging + Mental Health Initiatives

2018-2021: Identifying Priorities

The SE Research Centre partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) National office and a steering group of experts-by-lived-experience to identify the top unanswered research questions on aging and mental health according to Canadians. This process involved two national surveys, a rapid literature review, and a series of online workshops with 52 older adults, caregivers, and health/social care providers from across Canada.

If you would like to read more about the process we took, you can read the detailed project summary OR you can watch a video presentation about the project. You can also read more below and see the full list of 42 questions.   

2021-Present: Mobilizing Knowledge + Stimulating Action

Canadian Aging Action, Research, and Education (CAARE) for Mental Health Group is mobilizing knowledge of the answered and unanswered questions and influencing positive change for aging and mental health care, support, and treatment in Canada. Read more below about our goals and activities.

Join us and advocate for aging and mental health in Canada! If you are interested in learning more about joining the CAARE for Mental Health Group, please contact Elizabeth Kalles at elizabethkalles@sehc.com.

2022-2025: Research to Address Priority Questions

We are co-designing action-oriented mental health conversations between care providers and aging Canadians in the community. We are acting on the top unanswered and the top answered research questions in partnership with a working group of experts-by-experience from across Canada, and researchers from the University of Waterloo, University of British Columbia – Okanagan, and St. Francis Xavier University. Read more below about the process we’re taking and how you can get involved.

If you are interested in participating in the co-designing mental health conversations project or joining our working group, please contact Olinda Habib Perez at olindahabibperez@uwaterloo.ca

 

  • Identifying the Top 10 unanswered research questions on aging and mental health according to Canadians
    Project Overview
    Between 2018 and 2020, 305 Canadians completed Survey 1 and shared 42 priorities related to aging and mental health care, support, and treatment. In Survey 2, 703 Canadians identified their top 10 unanswered research questions to generate a list of 18 priority questions. In April 2021, 52 older adults, caregivers, and health and social care providers from across Canada came together in a series of workshops to rank the final top 10. If you would like to learn more about the process we took and why this work is important, you can read the detailed project summary

    The list below shows how the original 42 questions identified from Survey 1 have been screened, prioritized, and ranked to generate the final Top 10 list. The questions we’re taking action on (#1 and #26) are underlined.

    If you want to take action on a question, we would love to hear about it – you can contact Elizabeth Kalles at elizabethkalles@sehc.com to share more details!


     

    Top 10 Unanswered Questions on Aging and Mental Health in Canada
    These questions were identified from Survey 1 and were unanswered after a rapid review of recent evidence. They were prioritized in Survey 2 and ranked as the 10 most important unanswered questions in a series of 4 online workshops.

    1. How can health care providers who are not mental health specialists build their skills for providing mental health care to older adults? (e.g., family doctors, personal support workers, nurses, rehabilitation therapists etc.)
    1. What type of support minimizes the mental health impacts of loneliness for those who are socially isolated?
    1. How can older adults and caregivers better access mental health care when they need it? (e.g., location, cost, technology)
    1. What does person-centered mental health care look like for older adults? (e.g., meeting individual needs and preferences)
    1. What are the challenges and opportunities for using technology to provide mental health support and care to older adults?
    1. What mental health care is needed by older adults during care transitions? (e.g., from hospital to home, from home to long-term care)
    1. How can mental health care providers be better protected from burnout when providing care for older adults?
    1. How can mental health care planning better include the perspectives of family caregivers? (e.g., shared decision-making)
    1. What financial supports or resources are most useful to older adults who cannot afford mental health care?
    1. What health and social care services are most needed by caregivers of older adults with mental health issues?

    Unanswered Questions on Aging and Mental Health in Canada (that did not make the top 10 list)
    These questions were identified from Survey 1 and were unanswered after a rapid review of recent evidence. They were not prioritized in Survey 2, or they were not ranked in the top 10 unanswered questions during the online workshops.

    1. What mental health supports are needed in long-term-care?
    1. What support is needed by older adults dealing with substance use and addictions issues? (e.g., cannabis, alcohol, prescription medications, gambling etc.)
    1. What support do family caregivers need when they disagree with the mental health care provided to the older adult they support?
    1. How can peer support be used to improve mental health care for older adults?
    1. How do/should treatment options differ for older adults compared to the general population?
    1. What information can help people understand the differences between mental health and cognitive health?
    1. Would reducing financial barriers to accessing mental health care improve older adult’s use of these services?
    1. How can system-level healthcare funding be distributed to prioritize older adult mental health support, care and treatment?
    1. How can I and others help reduce the stigma around aging and mental health?
    1. What supports help with the fear of unpredictable/unexpected life changes? (e.g., job loss, divorce, death)
    1. How can I or others provide support for an older adult’s mental health needs?
    1. How can we better address the concerns older adults have around using mental health services like counselling?
    1. How does publicly available information on aging and mental health include different culture and language-speaking groups?
    1. What supports help to protect mental health in preparation for and during expected life transitions and change? (e.g., retirement, empty nest)
    1. How can mental health care providers ensure that older adult patients feel physically and emotionally safe during treatment?

    Answered Questions on Aging and Mental Health 
    These questions were identified from Survey 1 and were found to be answered after a rapid review of recent evidence.

    1. Are there simple tools available to help people identify signs of positive or poor mental health in themselves or others?
    1. What supports can help people prepare for physical and mental changes as they age? (e.g., decreased mobility, reduced memory)
    1. What supports help caregivers protect their mental wellbeing while caring for persons with mental health issues?
    1. How can care navigators help older adults and caregivers get the mental health support they need?
    1. What statistics exist to describe age-related mental health in Canada?
    1. What training supports employment and productivity in later life?
    1. What support is needed so older adults experience continuity of mental health care?
    1. How can physical health care providers and mental health care providers work better together to care for older adults?
    1. How does mental health care for older adults (i.e., geriatric mental health care) differ from general mental health care?
    1. What does effective home care look like for older adults with mental health issues and their caregivers?
    1. How do social and structural determinants of health impact mental health care for older adults? (e.g., income, location, ethnicity, etc.)
    1. What information is needed to guide the support, care, and treatment of depression in older adults?
    1. What type of prevention/early intervention is effective for treatment of mental health issues in older adults?
    1. What alternative treatments are available to support mental health in a way that will minimize disruptions to the day-to-day lives of older adults?
    1. What information is available around medically assisted death for older adults dealing with mental health illnesses?
    1. How can mental health treatments be better promoted to older adults with mental health illnesses?
    1. How do care providers ensure that their patients are appropriately prescribed and supported to use medications to treat their mental health issues?
  • Canadian Aging Action, Research, and Education (CAARE) for Mental Health Group
    Current Activities
    We are currently looking to expand our membership!

    If you are interested in getting involved in the CAARE Group or if you know someone who can help us meet our goals, you can email the CAARE Group project manager, Elizabeth Kalles at elizabethkalles@sehc.com to find out more.

    Membership in the CAARE Group includes attending quarterly online meetings, providing feedback on knowledge mobilization materials, and sharing information about the Group and the unanswered/answered questions with your network.

    CAARE Group Overview
    The work of the CAARE Group is grounded in the priority questions about aging and mental health that were identified above. The Group has 3 audiences that we are trying to reach as we affect change in Canada – aging Canadians, health researchers, and decision-makers (including policy makers and funders).

    Our goals as a group are:
    1. To build and sustain authentic partnerships to advance mental health care, support, and treatment;
    2. To support the co-design and completion of research and action-oriented projects to address priority questions identified by Canadians; and
    3. To advocate and/or apply for additional funding to support the priorities and activities of the Group.
    Our Commitment
    The CAARE Group is committed to inclusive and equitable practices and working with you to remove any barriers you or others may experience. Some examples we have implemented previously include: mailed materials in advance of gathering together, honoraria in recognition of the time involved, flexible scheduling (including around different time zones), phone and video support for meetings, 1-to-1 meetings in advance to connect about the project, translation of materials into French, synchronous and asynchronous opportunities to provide feedback, experience-driven input rather than hierarchy-driven input, and informal dialogue/engagement.

    leaf-cihr-colour-portrait-en.jpgThe CAARE for Mental Health Group is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging Voluntary Sector Knowledge Mobilization Support Grant and facilitated by the SE Research Centre.
  • Co-designing action-oriented mental health conversations between care providers and aging Canadians in the community

    Current Activities
    We are looking for new members to join our pan-Canadian working group! If you are interested in joining, or if you have questions, you can email the project lead, Olinda Habib Perez at olindahabibperez@uwaterloo.ca. Membership in the group involves attending quarterly meetings, providing feedback on project activities (e.g., recruitment strategies, knowledge mobilization posters), and sharing project materials with your contact network.

    Project Overview
    The overall goal of this project is to co-design and test an evidence-based approach to mental health conversations between home and community care providers and older adults during routine care interactions in rural and urban settings across Canada. You can read more about the process we are taking in this detailed project summary.  Guided by the Participatory Research to Action (PR2A) Framework we are partnering with experts-by-lived-experience in all phases of the research.

    In Phase 1 of the project, we will be conducting a series of 4 online workshops with older adults, caregivers, and health/social care providers to adapt/validate the Mental Health Continuum for use with older adults in community health and social care settings. Following the workshops, we will conduct an online survey of ~1000 aging Canadians, caregivers, and health/social care providers to assess agreement with the adapted/validated model.

    Project Partners
    This project is guided by a working group of experts-by-experience that includes older adults, caregivers, and health and social care providers from across Canada. They will advise on the project direction, support diverse community engagement in research activities (e.g., help sharing recruitment materials), help to create data collection tools and do data analysis, and participate in/guide the creation of summaries, reports, papers and other communications about the project and results with participants, other researchers, health decision-makers and the broader public.

    Researchers involved in the project are based out of the University of Waterloo, University of British Columbia – Okanagan, St. Francis Xavier University, and the SE Research Centre.

    This research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant: Addressing the Wider Health Impacts of COVID-19. You can read the University of Waterloo’s funding announcement about the project.