Local Program Connecting Older People During COVID-19

The Health Connector program is now back up and running following a short pause due to COVID-19.

The program is part of the Social Connectedness Project, funded by Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network. It involves a dedicated ‘Health Connector’ situated within one of seven participating general practices across the Hawkesbury.

Wentworth Healthcare Project Officer, Liz Murphy said, “Older people and carers are groups that can be more at risk from social isolation and loneliness for a range of reasons related to their practical circumstances and stage of life. COVID-19 has also impacted their ability to attend their usual activities, and either due to restrictions or precautionary measures, they may not be seeing their friends and family as much as they are used to.”

GPs and nurses within participating practices can identify and highlight patients who may be in need of some additional support and then refer them to the Health Connector (a specially trained practice nurse). Referrals can also be made from community organisations, family or the older person themselves. The Health Connector is trained to help older people find local services, activities or support strategies to help them feel more connected and less isolated. Once the patient has had their initial meeting, the Health Connector will check in to see how the person is going. If the service, activity or strategy isn’t suitable, together they can look at other options.

Another way people can find support is through the My Health Connector website which was developed as part of the program. The website lists local health and lifestyle services including social groups, wellbeing activities and community services. These may range from knitting groups, fitness classes or more formal support. The website started out in the Hawkesbury but over time, services from the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Penrith will be added.

“Listing your service on the My Health Connector website is free for all community organisations and a great way to let people know what’s going on in your area. The website started last year and we now have over 480 services listed, but the more services we have listed the more connected our community will be,” said Ms Murphy.

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