Our Stories: Care and counsel for aged care residents

Brisbane North PHN is pleased to present, Our Stories— an overview of the mental health, suicide prevention and alcohol and other drug treatment services commissioned by the PHN.

Each month, we will present a snapshot of services based off the perspectives of both service users and service providers – sharing real experiences and real outcomes. This month we are profiling the Caring for Residents of Aged Care program, created by Change Futures.

Caring for Residents of Aged Care places provisional psychologists in residential aged-care facilities to provide therapeutic programs for groups and individuals. What started as a small pro-bono program with St Vincent’s Aged Care in Brisbane’s northside has now spread to 17 facilities across the region with funding from Brisbane North PHN.

Program founder Julie Aganoff said they’re uncovering a huge need for psychological therapies in aged care.

‘Many, many residents in aged care experience psychological distress,’ she said. ‘Programs that support residents and improve their wellbeing are urgently needed.’

Julie said that the time when people first move into aged care can be particularly difficult. ‘When people move into aged care, they’re often lonely, distressed to have left their home, and unsure what the future will bring. They’ve often lost their social connections and need to start again, developing a friendship group in their new environment.

‘Our provisional psychologists can help with that transition and with other mental health issues residents are experiencing. Having a friendly, supportive person who visits each week simply to talk and listen for an extended time can provide enormous therapeutic benefit.’

Caring for Residents of Aged Care was designed in consultation with a Residents’ Advisory Group in an aged-care facility in Brisbane North.

‘The Residents’ Group was very important in helping us to understand how to engage with aged care facilities and what to offer in the program,’ said Julie.

Like any other mental health intervention, the program uses a selection of pre and post measures to evaluate outcomes. Evaluation shows the program leads to measurable reductions in residents’ anxiety and psychological distress, and high levels of client satisfaction.

Qualitative measures show improvements in mood, anxiety and stress; reductions in social isolation and acceptance; improved coping with life changes; and increases in self-worth.

Alice’s* story

Alice lives at St Vincent’s Aged Care in Mitchelton. Her eyesight is poor and she spends much of her time in her room. Even though her son and daughter-in-law visit regularly, she often finds herself feeling lonely. But talking to Phil, a provisional psychologist with Change Futures, has made a world of difference. Spending time with Phil gives her someone who listens to her and gives her support.
* Name and aspects of the story changed to preserve anonymity.

The program in a nutshell

Name: Caring for Residents of Aged Care

Providers: Change Futures

Service type: Individual and group therapy in residential aged-care facilities

Service duration: Conducted in episodes of five sessions; individual therapy available for up to 10 sessions; group therapy may be ongoing.