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Establishing the evidence base for appropriate mental health care in an aged care environment.

McDonald, T. A., 2008

ACSA Conference, Adelaide


Background: We sought to understand the extent of mental health issues within the Veterans’ Retirement Village as well as finding ways to identify and respond to mental health problems. Since 2003 resources have been increasingly allocated to providing appropriate mental health services; staff training and coaching in mental health; and the facilitation of access to psychogeriatric expertise.

Objective: In this paper the growing demand for mental health services in aged care contexts will be examined along with a discussion of options for introducing effective mental health services. Several iterations of out services development will be presented, culminating with the RSL LifeCare Mental Health Clinical Pathway and PTSD clinical pathway work undertaken at this university affiliated aged care site.

Project design and setting: A multi-pronged approach was taken to assess the extent of psychiatric issues within the Veterans’ Retirement Village at Narrabeen. A clinical psychologist was employed part time to conduct assessments, conduct staff training sessions and to report to management on prevalence of psychiatric issues. Through a focus group of registered nurses with both general and psychogeriatric a mental health clinical pathway was developed by Dr Tracey McDonald, Professor of Ageing and this pathway incorporates clinical psychology, psychogeriatrics and medical input as appropriate.

Results: Of the 420 residents assessed 80 have been moved onto the mental health clinical pathway since its introduction in 2005. As a result, 75% residents have benefited from stabilisation of such psychiatric issues as depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and anxiety neuroses.

Conclusions: Most mental health problems identified within the resident population are amenable to help from generalist staff, with backup support from mental health specialists. Reversal of common views held about older people’s mental health status requires staff to be aware of these issues and to assist residents to seek help from a mental health specialist as necessary. These themes need to be taken into account when designing mental health interventions for aged care communities.

CITATION McDonald T. Establishing the evidence base for appropriate mental health care in an aged care environment. (with Hardy, J. Lee, C. Kwok, C.) Aged and Community Services Australia National Conference, ACSA08 “Aged Care in the Fast Lane” Adelaide, Sept 28 to Oct 1.


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