People in residential aged care facilities are a population who are deemed that may benefit from psychological services. Psychology services for aged care residents can provide practical, effective and confidential support to deal with various behavioural or emotional issues and can help aged care residents with the emotional transition into the facilities. The psychologists work alongside the client, as well as their healthcare team to advocate their needs and focus on their well-being. The psychologists work from an evidence-based framework and provide a collaborative service, which is responsive to the needs of older people.
It has been identified that past mental health services may not have been routinely available to older people living in RACFs. The reasons for poor representation by psychologists in RACFs are multifaceted. Residents may not have access to existing funding models such as the Mental Health Care Plan, older adults may hold negative attitudes to seeing mental health practitioners, unidentified mental health issues in RACFs, funding, access and provision of services within the facility have been identified (1). Nearly a quarter of a million older people live permanently in residential aged-care homes in Australia (2) (and this is increasing!). The focus for provision of psychological treatment services in RACFs is being facilitated through initiatives provided by WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA). Clear Health Psychology is working collaboratively to provide onsite psychological care in RACFs across WA.
How can psychology help the ageing population?
The aim is to give these residents access to similar services as those currently available in the community. This will involve collaborating with the facilities themselves to provide evidenced-based, timely psychological therapies. Access to psychological treatment is through GP referral and is fully funded by the Australian Government. The purpose of the initiative is to provide free evidence-based psychological services to people who may not otherwise be able to access psychology.
RACF residents with a diagnosis of mental illness or assessed to be at risk of mental illness (if they do not receive services) are eligible for the service. Residents with mild to moderate mental health issues whereby “talking therapy” may be helpful are eligible. Those who are also eligible are residents who are having transition issues, residents from diverse and vulnerable communities and residents with a high level of cognitive functioning. A resident with dementia is not eligible, unless they have a co-morbid mental illness such as anxiety and/or depression. Individual and group therapy is available for psychological support, with the number and length of the sessions provided dependent on the ability of the resident benefiting from psychological intervention.
Psychological intervention in aged care
Psychological intervention is provided using a collaborative, warm, friendly and engaging therapeutic approach. Residents are encouraged to set their own goals for therapy, to engage with the psychologist to help meet these goals. Where possible and consent is given, collaboration with key stakeholders (such as GPs and RACF staff and care co-ordinators) may also form an important and beneficial part of the intervention.
Clear Health Psychology is delighted to be working collaboratively with the WA Primary Health Alliance with this initiative. We are working with a number of identified RACFs in the initial implementation phase and look forward to hearing from others who would like this initiative in their RACF. For further information about this service and resident eligibility, please contact Clear Health Psychology on (08) 6424 8177 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This government initiative shows care and compassion for the mental health care needs of older adults in residential aged care facilities. The feedback is what keeps us passionate and motivated. Great initiative and so proud to be working with WAPHA and the WA community.”
Dr Maxine Hawkins, Clinical Psychologist
1 Bhar, S. (2016). Innovative psychological support in aged-care facilities: Preliminary research and future directions. InPsych, 38(6). Retrieved from: https://www.psychology.org.au/inpsych/2016/december/bhar1
2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2015). Use of aged care services before death (Data linkage series no.19. Cat. no. CSI 21). Canberra: AIHW