The conversations of life

New program aims to better support aged care residents’ mental health – can we do more?


Not-for-profit provider Bolton Clarke is now offering a free early intervention mental health coaching program to residents at aged care homes in the Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network (PHN), which is funding the project.

Developed by beyondblue, NewAccess is designed to support people with the early signs of anxiety or depression due to loneliness, grief, poor health and other issues.

A coach provides residents with six private, one-on-one sessions, developing a tailored program to manage their symptoms.

There’s no waiting list or need to obtain a mental health referral. If residents need extra support after the sessions, they are guided to other support services in the PHN.

Program coach Corinna Borg tells us that clients like the fact the service is confidential and their families and nurses don’t need to know about the sessions – and it’s already showing results.

One resident with motor neurone disease thought her disease was progressing because she was finding it hard to breathe. Through the sessions, she resolved some personal issues that were causing her anxiety – her physical symptoms disappeared and her mood lifted.

We all deserve help when we need it

It’s a worthwhile program. I know from my experience working in aged care that around half of residents have some symptoms of depression when they enter aged care.

There is also a serious gap in mental health services for them.

Under the Better Mental Health Care program, aged care residents can’t access Medicare-funded mental health treatment. Instead, providers are expected to offer services.

But limited funding and a lack of training for staff around mental health issues means residents don’t always have their symptoms identified.

This is not good enough. Residents should be able to access to the same affordable treatments as everyone else.

The Federal Government did announce $82.5 million in funding for mental health support in aged care in the May Budget.

We would like to see it go towards better screening for aged care residents and training for staff.

It’s also important to remember that depression and anxiety can be an issue for family members struggling with the decision to move a loved one into care too – and the NewAccess program is available to both families of residents and people working in the aged care industry.

You can find out more about the program on 1800 010 630 or click here.

If this story has raised issues for you, there is help available:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.

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