A new initiative will deliver psychological services to aged care residents and provide training opportunities for staff working in residential care facilities.
Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network (CESPHN) has commissioned three existing psychological support organisations to deliver individual and group treatment sessions to residents at 17 aged care facilities in the region.
Under the initiative, the three provider organisations will engage mental health clinicians experienced in working with older people to deliver the sessions and work with facility staff to increase awareness of mental health issues and the services available to residents.
CESPHN CEO Michael Moore said a lot of emphasis was placed on the physical health of seniors, but the mental health of older people could often be forgotten.
“These psychological support services will make a real difference to the older community in our region,” Mr Moore said.
The services, which are funded under the federal government’s PHN program, target residents diagnosed with mild to moderate mental illness, those experiencing severe mental illness who are not being supported by another mental health service, and residents at risk of developing a mental illness.
The initiative is in response to an identified and gaps in available services in the region.
A needs assessment identified that although many older people experience good mental health, they are at greater risk of anxiety and depression, especially when there is coexisting physical illness including dementia, disability, or difficult life experiences, CESPHN said.
More than half of permanent aged care residents in Australia have symptoms of depression, as do 45 per cent of those who were admitted to residential aged care for the first time, according to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
CESPHN said consultation also identified that older people in aged care facilities:
- lack access to psychologists
- may be socially isolated
- are disadvantaged because there is a lack of financial incentive to provide visits to facilities
- are further disadvantaged because of issues with the provision of training for aged care facility staff.
More services planned
The service is CESPHN’s first designed to meet the mental health needs of aged care residents and will be followed by others over the next three years.
Future services will be informed by residents, families and carers, GPs, aged care staff and older mental health and aged care assessment teams to determine the most effective care models to address local needs, Mr Moore said.
“The organisation’s goals are to see mood improvements, reductions in anxiety and stress, increased ability to cope with life changes and an increase in social connection and participation in social activities,” Mr Moore said.
As part of the launch of the program, CESPHN is also providing upskilling opportunities for mental health clinicians around geriatric psychology, assessment and treatment. It has also funded mental health First Aid training opportunities for residential aged care staff.
The three providers delivering the treatments to aged care residents in the region are Victorian Primary Mental Health Alliance, Lilly Pilly Counselling and Sydney MindCare.
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