A new government-funded psychosocial mental health service has been launched to support aged care residents.

The Emotional Wellbeing for Older Persons Program is a new service the Northern Sydney Primary Health Network has commissioned and funded Sydney not-for-profit service provider Anglicare to run.

The program will deliver mental health supports to people living in residential aged care homes experiencing mental health symptoms, such as those related to a loss of independence, health, social networks or loved ones.

The funding comes from the Federal Government’s May 2018 budget initiative of $82.5 million over four years to improve access to mental health treatment for aged care residents (read more here).

Emotional Wellbeing in Older Persons Program manager Ann Gaffney said the program addressed a gap in mental health service provision in aged care facilities, where more than half of residents experience some degree of depression.

“Mental health issues in older people are often misdiagnosed, yet with specialist mental health support, recovery is possible,” said Ms Gaffney, a senior mental health clinician at Anglicare.

“Our service improves access to good mental health care for those living in aged care homes.”

The program aims to reduce anxiety and improve the mood and ability of older people to cope with life’s changes, she said.

It draws on an evidence-based approach and offers one-on-one and group psychosocial support rather than pharmacological interventions.

Participants are allocated a case manager who works with them to discuss their care and recent losses and teach relaxation methods and strategies to assist with memory.

Lynelle Hales

The program also includes skills-building workshops to enable staff to better identify and support residents with mental health symptoms.

Anglicare’s head of mental health David Ip said the program was an important step in recognising and treating the complex health needs of older people.

“We hope that through this program we can develop a model that can be rolled out across the whole aged care network,” Mr Ip said.

Open to all residents

The service is available to all residential aged care facilities in the Northern Sydney PHN region, said Lynelle Hales, CEO of the Sydney North Health Network, which operates the PHN.

“With over 120 residential aged care facilities within the northern Sydney region, this new service has the potential to positively impact many of our older citizens living in residential aged care.”

The service can be requested by a resident but a referral to the service should be made by a staff member or a visiting general practitioner via telephone or email, a spokersperson told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The program’s team will then arrange a time to visit the facility to provide support to the resident.

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3 Comments

  1. This is such an important program/service and area of care for older people. It would be great to see it extended to other areas.

  2. Woohoo!!! A step in the right direction! In so happy to see that the mental, emotional and social wellbeing of our elders is finally getting some real and positive support.
    Looking forward to the outcomes.

  3. As a curious Aged Care Counsellor, I attended the launch. I am glad that the program is available to older people in residential facilities. And I know that Anglicare has developed a strong multidisciplinary team to lead the program to achieve good outcomes.

    My concern is that aged care counsellors or individuals with an interest in counselling + aged care are relatively unrecognised among the aged care workforce. Let’s hope that the funding of mental health in RACFs will now move outwards to individuals with a HCP. There are people who are isolated by their mental illness or poor mental health. Addictions, gambling and dealing with family crises also contribute to older people’s poor mental health.. Community based aged care counsellors could be part of the broader response to mental wellbeing among older people.

    I will continue to argue for community aged care counsellors!

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