Aged Care

Uni leads care home depression, anxiety fight with $600K grant

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A Charles Sturt University (CSU) research initiative has received a $600,000 grant to enhance mental well-being for older Australians entering residential aged care.

The university’s Ageing Well research group will utilise the prestigious Ian Potter Foundation funding over five years for its “Improving Mental Health of Older Australians Navigating Aged Care Transition” (ON-TRAC) project.

The cross-disciplinary team brings together specialists to develop and implement evidence-based interventions.

Their goal is to reduce the high rates of depression and anxiety experienced when older people move into care facilities.

CSU postdoctoral fellow Dr Shanna Fealy said the transition period presented major mental health challenges.

“The aged care sector is confronted with immense challenges, necessitating a comprehensive transformation of its framework which was outlined in the recent findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety,” she said.

“With the incidence of depression in older adults in residential aged care facilities alarmingly high at 52 per cent, compared to community-dwelling older adults at 10-15 per cent, and anxiety disorders often co-occurring, improving the mental health of older Australians during this critical transition phase may have a long-lasting positive impact well beyond the project’s five-year duration,” she added.

Through extensive collaboration, the ON-TRAC project will see consumers, providers and researchers co-design mental health programs to meet local needs. Partners include Uniting AgeWell, St Agnes Care and Lifestyle, National Ageing Research Institute and Federation University.

Ian Potter Foundation Chairman Charles Goode said the organisation is pleased to back CSU’s focus on protecting older people’s mental wellbeing. “The high rates of depression in this group make this a pressing need,” he commented. “Focused on prevention, the research project is based on strong collaborations with consumers, industry partners and research institutions.”

Dr Fealy added that the funding validates CSU’s commitment to advancing ageing Australians’ health during a major life transition.

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