The future direction and role of psychologists’ in aged care homes should be full of possibilities and not negative stereotypes. The general public and some psychologists have similar views of these places, as a lonely and depressing place to live.
Psychologists in aged care homes can help change the direction of these attitudes by educating and enhancing the culture of residential care staff and the general public.
Attitudes about long-term care for older adults
There is lots of research that supports the need for improving the attitudes and knowledge of long-term care staff. On the other hand there is very little research on the general public’s attitude toward these same aged care homes.
Work is needed to change the attitudes and perception of aged care facilities, which are keeping them from improving. Psychologists can help improve the conditions and culture of aged care homes by providing the proper education and training to their staff.
One common phrase that comes up when discussing residential aged care facilities is “I would never put by loved one into a nursing home”. This is the perception that needs to be changed, because of the reality of dealing with this complex situation. There is a point where the ageing loved one will not be able to live with their family support networks within the community.
To improve the quality in long-term care facilities, the public and healthcare workers need to understand the unique role these places provide residents for quality medical and psychological care. This really is the best place they can be for their special needs.
The role of the psychologist working in Australia at aged care homes has been one of low availability. This has been the reality of this situation for years and it does not look to change unless the proper steps are taken. This is in contrast to other countries like the United States and the Netherlands where they have a large impact on residential aged care.
The future direction of improving the mental health services in aged care homes is essential for the wellbeing of the residents. The need for more psychologists working in this environment will optimize the mental and physical quality of life for them.
The solution is to get psychologists interested in working with older adults while providing special training in this area. Increasing funding and training possibilities will help aged care staff to recognize mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Importance of training and research efforts in residential aged care settings
There are high rates of depression with residents living in aged care settings and poor access to psychologists exist according to an Swinburne University of Technology and a team of Australian research institutes. With this low availability of psychologists trained to help older adults in these facilities, there is a need to provide more education and training programs in this area.
When patients in aged care settings become chronically ill, there is a greater need for these mental health care workers. Lack of government funding can prevent training and research for psychologists. Psychologists work with residents and train other staff members for optimum health. With the proper training, psychologists can change the whole outlook for aged care homes leading to less pharmacological intervention and more effective results.
The way forward
Psychologists in residential aged care settings can greatly improve the culture for residents with the proper training and awareness in mental health. Psychology students with this training have a positive and realistic attitude that can make a real difference in the aging resident’s life. Some ways in which services for them can be improved include:
- Develop a specialised workforce of psychologists trained for older patients.
- Improve funding so residents have better access to services.
- Train the aged care staff about depression and anxiety.