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APS calls for urgent action to improve mental health care for aged care residents

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APS is requesting the government to enhance the availability of psychology services among aged care residents.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) is urging the Federal Government to increase access to psychology services in aged care, as around 60% of aged care residents have a mental health condition, according to their analysis.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) is calling on the Federal Government to increase access to psychology services in aged care, following a new analysis showing widespread mental ill-health in the sector two years after the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

APS President Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe said that the APS is releasing a new position statement, ‘Psychologists in residential aged care,’ to drive awareness of the importance of supporting the mental health of aged care residents.

According to the APS’s analysis, which examined the prevalence of mental health conditions within the sector, around 60% (3 in 5) of aged care residents have a mental health condition.

Aged care residents are also four times more likely to experience mental ill-health compared to community-dwelling older adults. The analysis also found that approximately 50% of older people living in residential care in Australia have depression, while up to 20% have an anxiety disorder, and another 60% may experience clinically significant anxiety symptoms requiring treatment.

Other findings include that about a third of older people in residential aged care report suicidal ideation, which is up to four times higher than for community-dwelling older adults, and that the comorbidity of mental and physical health disorders is high in residential aged care, with nearly 60% of individuals with a mental health disorder having musculoskeletal conditions, incontinence, or diabetes.

The APS is proposing several key measures to improve mental health care for aged care residents. These include committing to legislative, funding, and policy levers for equitable access to high-quality allied health care, including psychological services for aged care residents, increasing postgraduate psychology training, placements, and supervision for qualified psychologists to work in aged care and ensuring permanent access to the MBS Better Access initiative for aged care residents.

The APS is also calling for ongoing funding for Primary Health Networks Improved Access to Psychological Services in Aged Care Facilities initiative to scale up and increase mental health promotion/programming, as well as developing mental health literacy training programs for aged care staff to improve identification of psychological distress and access to support for older adults.

They are also advocating for investment in research for evidence-based psychological support in residential aged care, funding research higher degrees and fellowships for the next generation of aged care researchers.

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