14 May 2019
New Mental Health Program for Barossa Aged Care Residents
Residents at two Barossa aged care facilities are taking part in a pilot program that gives them direct access to psychological services at their place of residence.
Funded by Country SA PHN the Residential Wellbeing Program is being trialled at The Barossa Village and the Tanunda Lutheran Home. The pilot offers suitably assessed aged care residents the opportunity to receive mental health services similar to those that people in the community can access through Medicare.
General Manager of Residential Care Services at The Barossa Village, Matt Kowald says the program is incredibly exciting and he’s pleased the Federal Government is committing to an area that’s often forgotten.
“Most importantly this Residential Wellbeing Program acknowledges that the mental health of our aged people needs to be invested in, in a professional and structured manner,” said Matt Kowald.
“Prior to this program we could offer pastoral care, but this didn’t get to the heart of the grief and loss that our residents often experience. Many are facing anxiety and depression and this type of preventative program takes their care to a whole different level,”
“It makes psychological services an embedded living, breathing part of our organisation.”
The Residential Wellbeing Program is being delivered in the Barossa by Sonder Care. Their fully qualified Mental Health Clinicians have been routinely visiting the two aged care residences since the pilot began in January and they’re already noticing a big difference in the residents’ mental health and wellbeing.
“Delivering therapy within the facilities has been a very rewarding experience for me as a clinician; with some very positive outcomes for residents occurring within just a few sessions,” said Sonder Care Mental Health Clinician, Bridie Gigney.
“Every person living within a facility should have access to this type of service. I feel humbled and very privileged to have been given this opportunity.”
The benefits they’re seeing include: mood improvements; reduction in anxiety and stress; and an increased ability to cope with life changes.
Mental Health Clinicians and residential staff are also finding that residents receiving the appropriate mental health treatment are more likely to engage in activities and increase social connections – which in turn improves wellbeing.
Barossa Village resident, 87 year old May Carter, is one resident who is already really benefitting from the program. Like many aged care residents, Mrs Carter was having trouble sleeping. This contributed to her having a lack of energy, low mood and becoming withdrawn. Like many people who struggle with sleep, anxiety was determined to be a contributing factor. In Australia 10-15% of older adults experience depression, and approximately 10 percent experience anxiety.
Through her sessions with Sonder Care Mental Health Clinician, Bridie Gigney, Mrs Carter learnt more about anxiety and started using a STOP mindfulness strategy during times of anxiety and before bed. She started to see the benefit and by the fourth session was sleeping through the night in a more restful way. By Mrs Carter’s sixth session she stated that she, “was sleeping better and had more energy in the day.”
Mrs Carter was also able to use mindfulness to help with anxiety before having a scan. She was delighted with the outcome and told the mental health clinician to tell other patients to use the strategy.
Country SA PHN Chief Executive Kim Hosking said the Primary Health Network is excited about funding the new initiative.
“It’s fantastic that the Federal Government has recognised the importance of offering aged care residents mental health support within their aged care residence,”
“Many aged care residents are dealing with anxiety and depression revolving around the loss of long-term partners and other loved ones, leaving their homes and leaving family members.
“This funding will help to alleviate some of those issues and give aged care residents a better quality of life.”
Tanunda Lutheran Home Chief Executive Lee Martin says they have also had an overwhelmingly positive response to the program.
“When residents arrive there’s a sense of grief and loss. Most people settle in, but there are some that don’t and these residents in particular will really benefit from this program,” said Lee Martin.
“Being in a rural area it’s not easy for our residents to seek mental health services outside of the residence so having mental health professionals be able to provide these services on site is a fantastic initiative.”
It’s expected that the pilot program will be rolled out to other aged care residents over the Country SA PHN region over the next four years, with funding guaranteed until 2023.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of the pilot and look forward to continuing to see the progress of our residents from receiving this meaningful therapy from the comfort and security of our residence,” said Matt Kowald.