Webinars address mental health in aged care

The series provides education for aged care staff.

Not-for-profit provider Uniting AgeWell has partnered with La Trobe University to develop a webinar series that aims improve mental health care for people living in residential aged care.

Designed for aged care home staff, facility managers, nurses, allied health professionals and medical practitioners, it’s hoped the free educational webinars will help curb the rates of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression – which affect at least 40 per cent of aged care residents in Australia.

Professor Joseph Ibrahim

“We want to promote existing services and provide education for staff involved in the sector to stimulate partnerships with the health system,” said Professor Joseph Ibrahim from La Trobe’s Australian Centre for Evidence-Based Aged Care.

The initiative – called the National Mental Health Webinar Series – brings together a wide range of academic and clinical organisations who are leaders in aged care and mental health services including Dementia Support Australia, the Australian Association of Gerontology and Healthy Brain Ageing UNSW.

More than 1,300 people registered for the first live webinar held on 6 March. The comments shared highlighted a lack of access to mental health services, particularly in regional and remote areas of Australia.  

“Aged care staff know there is a need for better mental health care for their residents, yet there is a significant clinical gap beyond their control – the limited access and availability of mental health professionals to manage complex and major health conditions,” said Professor Ibrahim.

The mental health of older people has long-been an important focus for Uniting AgeWell – which provides both residential aged care and home care services.

Past projects have included the Talking Mental Health initiative – developed to improve access interventions for older people in home care settings – and research to help improve the mental health of older people transitioning into residential aged care.

Andrew Kinnersly

“We’ve taken a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing and believe we can contribute to the quality of life of older people, their carers and families, whilst also supporting our staff through professional development and tailored learning opportunities,” said Uniting AgeWell chief executive officer Andrew Kinnersly.

The webinar series addresses five key areas for improving mental health for older people in residential aged care:

  • access to mental health services
  • wellness and social inclusion
  • depression recognition and management
  • mental health presentations in persons with dementia
  • mental health crisis – suicide and other emergencies.

Each webinar includes a clinical case presentation, a keynote speaker and an interactive panel discussion.

Episode 2 in the series – Wellness and Social Inclusion – is on Wednesday 8 May at 1pm AEST. Click here to register for the event.

Episode 1 – Accessing Mental Health Services for Older People – can be viewed here.

“We need to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of older people across the full spectrum of care and advocate for improvements in policy and social issues affecting their mental health and wellbeing,” said Mr Kinnersly, “– the 2024 National Mental Health Webinar Series is an important step forward.”

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Tags: Andrew Kinnersly, mental health, professor joseph ibrahim,

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