Accessing Psychological Services in Nursing Homes

Hello Julie, I am a psychologist and I want to know how to work in a nursing home

Hi Julie, how do we get a psychologist to visit our facility? 

Hi Julie, my mum is in a nursing home and I need a psychologist to see her. She is so depressed. 


If I got a dollar for every time I was asked how to get a psychologist to visit an aged care facility I would be a rich woman! 


Although it is so pleasing to hear awareness about mental health in older people it is so disheartening having to answer that there is limited funding to mental health services for older people in nursing homes. Why is that? 


Few issues come up

1. Older Australians in aged care are not entitled to Better Access to Mental Health, a scheme through Medicare which allows substantial rebates for accessing mental health treatment. This is something I have strongly advocated for over the last eight years and there has been no change in government ruling. There are other ways to obtain rebates, such as through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Chronic Disease Management through Medicare and Private Health Insurance. Also, I have visited many facilities which paid for their resident to be assessed and have had residents pay for a private consult without a rebate. 


2. Most psychologists work in consulting rooms and do not provide mobile service to nursing homes. We have been trained in providing a safe environment for our clients which we can create in our rooms. You never know if the client can have a safe and confidential space in their own home (who do they live with, will that person be there or not and do they feel comfortable to discuss their concerns). Back when I started working in aged care I too had consulting rooms but no one came! All my clients were either in nursing homes or their mobility was so bad that it cost them so much to get out of the house to come and see me. They would actually get a lower Medicare rebate for coming to see me in my consulting rooms than if I travelled to see them in their homes.  


3. The way that I am overcoming the above challenges is to up-skill the aged care workforce to deliver better emotional care to older adults. I am addressing the gaps in the service delivery by helping the workers identify and achieve social goals for older people which will help to improve their confidence and wellbeing. Having assessed hundreds of older adults and their mental health status, I know that the number one challenge they mention is isolation and the lack of human contact. They easily get bored, withdrawn and disengaged.  Teaching aged care workforce how to better meet emotional needs of older people will improve the outcomes for the older person, their family and the worker themselves. 


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