Depression is hitting aged care residents

MORE than half of aged care residents have depression, with Tasmanian mental health advocates fearing that many facilities lack the awareness, training and resources to help.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare this week revealed that 52 per cent of Australian aged care residents have symptoms of depression.

The report said that although aged care staff were in a good position to recognise mental illness, they could be hindered by a lack of awareness and training.

Amanda Quealy, chief executive of not-for-profit mental health service the Hobart Clinic Association, said depression in the elderly often went untreated, due to a misconception that mental health issues were resolved by a person going into aged care.

"The public system has the Older Persons Mental Health Service, and that's run out of Hobart, but they do have a psychiatrist in the North- West and one in the North that will come out, do an assessment and provide short-term case management for people ... particularly for people who are in the community," Ms Quealy said.

"And I think that's a factor: that the system is geared towards providing services for people who are still in their own home, in terms of picking up any type of mental health issue."

Mental Health Council Tasmania chief executive Darren Carr said that once Tasmanians turned 65, their access to many community- based recovery mental health services, offered by organisations such as Anglicare and Aspire, cut out.

"It's because they become eligible for aged care services, where recovery is not the focus," Mr Carr said.

"We think that's appalling, because people at 65 have an awful lot of living to do ... and aged care is not mental health care and vice versa."

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said that once people turned 65, the Commonwealth HACC program provided funding for services including nursing care, counselling and advocacy services, centre-based day care and support for carers.

Ms O'Byrne said the state government also provided mental health services for over 65s, including acute care at the three major hospitals, extended treatment and outpatient care at the Roy Fagan Centre, and the Older Persons Mental Health Service and the Dementia Behavior Management Advisory Service.

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