Up to 30 per cent of people over 65 who are frail and require significant support to continue living in their homes are depressed. This is double the prevalence rate of depression for people over 65 who live in the community without help.
To address this, Beyond Blue has developed a training program for community aged care staff to help improve their understanding of depression and anxiety in older people, and to ensure their clients get support.
Beyond Blue CEO Kate Carnell AO said case managers and community care staff who visit older people in their homes can have a big impact on the mental health of those for whom they care.
“For a lot of people who don’t live with their family, this may be the most significant social relationship they have. Services often focus on the physical needs of their clients, but the mental health needs are just as important. Becoming increasingly depressed or anxious doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with ageing. There are effective treatments available for depression and anxiety, regardless of a person’s age. Someone just has to be on the ball enough to pick up on the signs to get older people the help they need.
“Even though depression and anxiety are mental health problems, these conditions often have physical symptoms that people can confuse with other ailments. These symptoms include headaches and muscle pains, feeling sick, run down or tired all the time, churning gut, sleep problems, loss or change of appetite, and/or significant weight loss or gain. So carers need to be aware of this too,” Ms Carnell said.
The new training, Understanding Depression and Anxiety in Older People in the Community, is research-based and is modelled on Beyond Blue's successful Professional Education to Aged Care (PEAC) program which was released last year for aged care staff working in residential facilities.
Ms Carnell said: “With up to a third of older people who are supported in their homes experiencing depression, and with anxiety disorders likely to be even more common, it’s vital that the staff are taught to recognise the signs and symptoms of these conditions which can significantly reduce an older person’s quality of life.
“Older people are at greater risk of developing mental health problems because of the cumulative effect of numerous risk factors, including chronic illness and isolation. But if aged care staff can recognise the symptoms of depression and anxiety, they can take action to get professional help and treatment for those affected, which will improve how they feel and may just rekindle older people’s interest in activities they used to enjoy,” she said.
The training will be delivered to staff in a three-hour workshop by training organisations licensed by Beyond Blue to deliver the PEAC program across Australia.
The focus will be on understanding depression and anxiety, how these conditions present in older people, risk and protective factors, ways to support older people’s mental health, screening tools and information about how to access treatment.
“We developed this training program because we were approached by people working in the sector wanting to know if they could get training for their staff. We are very pleased the training is now available and we’re not aware of any other national programs like this in Australia. I’d encourage all aged care agencies to ensure their staff receive this important training,” Ms Carnell said.
For more information, please contact Beyond Blue on 03 9810 6100.
PLEASE NOTE: In October, to celebrate the positive contribution older people make to the community, Seniors Festivals are being held in the following states: South Australia (1–31 October), Tasmania (1–7 October) and Victoria (6–13 October).