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Making a difference in Residential Aged Care

Gippsland Primary Health Network (PHN) is partnering with Foster and Toora Medical Centre in Prom Country Aged Care to trial a new program, Mental Health in Aged Care, to identify the complex and varied challenges faced by someone entering care. The pilot project highlights opportunities for aged care facilities to offer additional support to people in the transition period from their own home into a residential aged care facility and the months following.

The pilot program forms part of the larger scale Mental Health in Aged Care Project, which aims to commission new psychosocial outreach services targeting Gippsland residents in residential aged care facilities with mild to moderate mental health conditions.

The pilot program will generate key learnings to guide the development of the regional service model which is currently being co-designed by the Mental Health in Aged Care Governance Group.

Gippsland PHN Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Proposch said being told you must move away from your own home was difficult. “You are moving away from memories and familiarity, away from your community and your independence so it is no wonder that transitioning into care can be challenging,” she said.

“Add poor health, reduced mobility and losing loved ones to this situation and by the time a person enters care, they can be feeling overwhelmed.”

The pilot program is endeavouring to create a therapeutic environment to positively affect behavioural changes and to improve the mental health of all residents by focussing on a sense of belonging, sense of other, peer support, self-regulation and respect.

The program design was established by a resident Community Council which comprises residents, family members and staff, and will be rolled out over a 12-month period.

At the core of program is psychosocial adaptive interventions including monthly therapy group sessions to discuss how to feel safe among strangers and how to maintain your identity when becoming one of many. There are staff and resident buddy systems, enabling a strong rapport to established and one-on-one counselling sessions.

‘How this looks for a new resident arriving into residential aged care’ is a session that includes a clear and structured orientation process with a focus on mental health and wellbeing through group sessions, counselling sessions and psychogeriatric assessment.

“It’s during these processes, that grief, loss and trauma experienced previously in life are being addressed and are helping new residents to settle in,” Ms Proposch said. “Staff have already seen the change in residents who are completing the program.

“On arrival, residents complete a personal care summary and a Cornell’s depression scale to gain an insight into their current mental health. Some months later, the depression scale and personal care statement are repeated.

“Importantly, the residents are feeling supported and more comfortable in the environment. It’s wonderful to see the program making such a difference.”