05 Jan 2016

Psychology Group Sessions in Residential Care

As a registered psychologist, my long-term passion and objective is achieving better mental health outcomes in residential care. This area is often overlooked by other psychologists, due to limited training and employment opportunities in the field, being neglected by federal government and funding bodies, and being underestimated by the general population. Research indicates that depression, anxiety and adjustment disorder are highly prevalent in residential care, and are exacerbated by poor physical health, social isolation and limited support networks.

In 2010, I started providing individual therapy for older people living in residential care. I soon learnt that connecting residents to one another had better therapeutic outcomes than individual therapy alone. Connecting individuals is important and powerful for their self-esteem, sense of belonging and mental stimulation. Soon after that, I developed content for psychology group sessions in residential care [RESIST™ Resident Program]. Both old and new residents responded exceptionally well to the program, which has been recognised by NSW Health, Mental Health Commission, and won a Positive Living in Aged Care Award. Last year, undergraduate and postgraduate psychology students assisted in co-facilitating the program and learning more about the emotional needs of older adults in residential care. The students gave enthusiastic feedback on the value of their participation, and noted that their university training had not sufficiently prepared them to work with this sector of the population.

Yesterday, the sessions resumed across three facilities in Sydney. I walked into the room of 93-year old Marion* and invited her to come to the session. Marion said, “I’m miserable”. However, after I told her the session was about to commence, she quickly got changed, put on her lipstick and soon enough, was reading an exercise in the group session. She later commented, “The group is interesting, it opens up your brain, as it has been down the drain a bit”. In yesterday’s sessions participants discussed the impact of memory loss, loss of independence and the importance of setting a goal. As Ron* said, “I still have goals, my goal is to get on that bus next week for the lunch outing – as they say, never ventured, never gained”. Several residents have formed friendships and connected with one another outside the sessions, which was the overall objective of the groups.

The RESIST™ Resident Program is now available for licensing. It can be delivered at any aged care facility in Australia, with adequate support and training offered to the licensee. The program has been written so it can be delivered by other allied health professionals and personnel working in residential aged care facilities (RACF) who do not necessarily need to have psychology training. Contact me to find out more!

* Names have been changed to preserve the privacy of these people.

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