Talking therapies can help older people come to terms with long-term illness, says Independent Age in a free new advice guide.

The charity has been working with older people, GPs and other health professionals to produce ‘Living well with long-term health conditions’, which is available now to download.

It has been written specifically for older people to enable them to take control of their lives, but could also be useful for family members, carers and professionals.

The guide offers practical tips on managing to live with a number of health conditions, including how to access talking therapies.

Jeremy Bacon, BACP older people lead, said: “Often people with long-term physical health conditions have mental health problems which can make it even harder for them to engage with treatment programmes for their physical health needs.

“It’s vital that mental health needs are included in treatment and support for people with long-term physical health problems and that older people are encouraged and supported to access talking therapies.”

The guide states: “Talking therapies, such as counselling or group therapy, might be suggested if you have a long-term mental health condition, or if another condition is having an impact on your emotional or mental health.”

It adds: “Sometimes you may be offered information or services at a time when you can’t take it in. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking again when you feel more able to absorb information.

“For example, you might only feel ready to think about support groups or counselling once the shock of a diagnosis has passed or treatment is over.”

Case studies

The guide includes case-studies of older people who have accessed counselling.

One older person says: “My wife and I had counselling when my daughter died. To start with I thought, well, do I need counselling, I’m coping all right? Or I thought I was anyway.

“Then a close friend of mine died as well and I realised I needed some help, and I found it extremely useful.

“Before that I’d probably have dismissed it. So if you do get something like that, it’s worthwhile going.”

Another older person said: “I had cancer and we didn’t get any counselling afterwards. It was a very difficult time for my wife and family.

“I think the GP mentioned counselling once, but that was it. It’s all right being told about it but when you’re under stress and trauma it doesn’t go in. It’s very difficult.”

Lucy Harmer, director of services at Independent Age, said: “Our aim is to give older people the assurances to confidently ask the right questions at medical appointments and navigate their way round all the new information they are receiving.”

Free copies of ‘Living well with long-term health conditions’ can be downloaded or ordered via Independent Age’s Helpline on 0800 319 6789.

Find out more about BACP’s older people strategy.