Psychological support for residents

An innovative program in Brisbane will see postrgraduate psychology students undertaking clinical placements in aged care homes.

Much-needed psychological services will be provided to 18 residential aged care facilities in Brisbane as part of an innovative program coordinated by GPpartners and Brisbane South Division of General Practice.

It will see postgraduate psychology students from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Queensland University and Griffith University providing direct support to up to 250 residents over 20 weeks.

The project is being funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Aged Care Access Initiative (Allied Health) program.

It was developed in response to a survey of aged care staff in January 2008 which found that psychological services are one of the most critical unmet needs for low care residents.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Project Coordinator, Lorna McDonagh. “The residents will have psychological services that they have never really had before and the students will have a clinical placement that will count towards their qualification.”

“We want the students to realise that ageing is part of life and it is part of the continuum of care.”

The response from the students has been positive according to Dr Esben Strodl from QUT’s School of Psychology and Counselling.

“There was a recognition amongst the students that it was a valuable opportunity to work with older people – and a unique experience as well,” he said.

“It will be an important part of their training, given the ageing population and the high mental health needs in older people.”

A short-term referral system is being designed to maximise the use of the funding which is due to expire on 30 June.

But Ms McDonagh believes the program will prove to be sustainable and continue beyond that date.

“We hope that relationships will develop between the aged care facilities and the universities so that these placements will continue after the funding finishes,” she said.

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