May 02, 2023

Calls for Boost in Mental Health Support for Aged Care Residents

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The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has called for greater access to psychology services in aged care following new analysis that has uncovered widespread mental ill-health in the sector. The analysis, conducted two years on from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, highlights the need for increased mental health support for aged care residents.

The APS has released a new position statement to highlight the significance of supporting the mental health of aged care residents. 

Doctor Catriona Davis-McCabe, President of the APS, explained to Australian Senior News that the mental health of aged care residents is just as important, if not more important than their physical health. She expressed her shock that access to expert mental health care largely stops when aged care residents enter aged care.

According to the APS analysis, around 60% of aged care residents have a mental health condition, which is four times more than community-dwelling older adults. 

Further, around 50% of older Australians living in residential care have depression, while up to 20% have an anxiety disorder and another 60% may experience clinically significant anxiety symptoms requiring treatment. Almost a third of older people in residential aged care report suicidal ideation, up to four times higher than for community-dwelling older adults.

Analysis Finding

  • Mental and physical health disorders are common in aged care.
  • Nearly 60% of individuals with a mental health disorder have musculoskeletal conditions, incontinence, or diabetes.
  • Almost half of aged care residents with dementia (47%) have a mood disorder.

Dr. Davis-McCabe highlighted that these figures are a stark reminder of the need for people to live their later years safely and with dignity. To achieve this, the APS has proposed several key initiatives, including the commitment to legislative, funding, and policy levers for equitable access to high-quality allied health care, including psychological services for aged care residents.

The APS also recommends increasing postgraduate psychology training, placements and supervision for qualified psychologists to work in aged care, with incentives focused on rural/remote areas and diverse populations. 

Ensuring permanent access to the MBS Better Access initiative for aged care residents, ongoing funding for Primary Health Networks Improved Access to Psychological Services in Aged Care Facilities initiative, developing mental health literacy training programs for aged care staff, and investing in research for evidence-based psychological support in residential aged care are other important initiatives.

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