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Access to psychologists in aged care is an ‘urgent priority’, COTA tells minister

Seniors are ramping up pressure on the Federal Government over the lack of access to psychological services for older people living in residential aged care, launching a petition calling on new health minister Greg Hunt to reverse the discriminatory policy.

Council on the Ageing Australia said that Mr Hunt needed to make the issue “an urgent and early priority”.

“We are calling on him to take it to Cabinet where the government must agree to reverse this historical anomaly so that nursing home residents have the same access to mental health services as everyone else,” said COTA chief Ian Yates.

Last week Australian Ageing Agenda reported that the government was not committing to remove the restrictions that prevent aged care residents from accessing Medicare-funded psychology sessions, despite a growing chorus of experts calling for a change and mounting media coverage of the issue (read story here).

Instead the Commonwealth has referred the issue to its ongoing review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

The Australian Psychological Society, which represents Australia’s psychologists, last week called on the government to allow residents to access the Better Access initiative, which provides 10 subsidised sessions with a psychologist through Medicare.

Launching the petition on Tuesday, Mr Yates said the current situation was a throwback to a time when people were “put away” in nursing homes and not seen as part of the community.

“A person receiving a high level home care package in their own home can make use of the Better Access program. Yet people living in an aged care home around the corner cannot.

“The theory behind this anomaly is that aged care providers will step in. But this happens far too infrequently, is less well-funded, and residents are not in control of the process,” he said.

Given the high incidence of depression and other mental health conditions suffered by residents of aged care facilities there is clearly a problem that needs to be urgently addressed, Mr Yates said.

“Older Australians and their families are calling for him to support this; and the mental health community are also championing the need for change.

“Our frailest older Australians deserve the best care we can offer,” he said.

Click here to sign COTA’s petition

Mental health in aged care – AAA coverage:

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