Improving mental health and wellbeing for residents in aged care

Nov 16, 2021

Change Futures Psychology Low Res RGB

Brisbane North PHN commissions Change Futures to deliver psychology services to residents of aged care through the Psychology for Aged Care (PAC) Wellbeing Program. The PAC Wellbeing Program offers services based on the stepped care continuum of primary mental health care with a particular focus on providing mild to moderate psychological therapies to residents in aged care.

During 2020-2021, Change Futures supported over 720 residents in aged care across Brisbane North. Most of these residents experienced adjustment difficulties including symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Outcomes from the program include a significant reduction in psychological distress, depression and anxiety (as measured by the K-5), as well as an increase in quality of life (as measured by the QOL-AD).

The following story has been written by a PAC wellbeing practitioner to showcase the type of work and outcomes achieved through the program.

When I first began working with Wendy*, the 90 year old was presenting with depressive symptoms and difficulty adjusting to the facility as she had only lived there for four months. Through my conversations with Wendy I learned that she had Alzheimer’s disease and was suffering complicated grief following the death of her husband 30 years ago.

Wendy shared with me her memories of growing up in a rural area where she was raised by her aunt following the death of her mother when she was just three months old. Wendy engaged well and shared openly in sessions. She would often express her desire to go back home and talk of her marriage and memories of meeting her husband and starting a family. Wendy has remained connected with her six children and many grandchildren.

Working with Wendy, we established the goal of helping her to accept the facility as her new home. Due to her Alzheimer’s, Wendy had some difficulty with her short term memory so it was a challenge needing to repeat things and witness her go through the same sad emotions and negative thoughts. I focused on assisting Wendy through supportive counselling and reminiscence therapy.

Reminiscence therapy was particularly enjoyable for Wendy because her long term memory was good and she had a lot of happy memories to share. Across sessions I was able to see that reminiscing on these positive experiences appeared to lift Wendy’s mood and she further expressed how she enjoyed sharing stories of her husband because she “misses him so much”.

In my early sessions with Wendy she would mostly eat her meals in her room, only go out for bingo, and would not feel comfortable asking staff for things to make her feel more comfortable and at home. By our later sessions, Wendy was more comfortable speaking up for herself to ask for things and was also participating in a walking group and would sit in the lounge area throughout the day. Wendy expressed her gratitude for “all the time I have spent with her” and her family also reported feeling that she had adjusted much better to living in the facility.

For more information on the Psychology for Aged Care Wellbeing Program, including how to refer, visit the Change Futures website.

* Personal information within this story has been changed for anonymity.

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