Educating aged care about depression

Educating aged care about depression.

Photo: Educating aged care about depression.

beyondblue, a not-for-profit organisation tackling depression, is set to roll out a new national training program– the Professional Education to Aged Care (PEAC) program – to educate aged care workers about the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety in older people.

The rate of depression among older people living in residential care is believed to be 35% higher than the general population.

The program aims to help improve detection, diagnosis and management of these conditions in both residential and community settings. 

Identifying and managing depression and anxiety disorders in the aged care environment can be difficult. Some common difficulties include:

  • Many of the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety disorders and dementia are common to all three conditions. This makes identifying any one of these conditions difficult.
  • To date, there has been little research into anxiety disorders in older people.
  • Medications may not be as effective in older people with depression/anxiety disorders and dementia owing to their existing cognitive impairment.

The PEAC program promotes strategies, based on research, to care for older people with depression and anxiety disorders effectively – both in residential and community care settings.

beyondblue chief executive, Kate Carnell AO, said it was “vitally important” such training was available to people working in the aged care sector.

“Prior to PEAC’s development, aged care providers were approaching beyondblue to find out where they could access training on depression and anxiety in older people for their staff.

“Few options existed that we could recommend. It’s fantastic that there is now an evidence-based training program to support aged care workers in their crucial work of caring for our elderly. This is great news for older people and their families,” Ms Carnell said.

She added Australia’s population was ageing and, along with all the other health issues that come with ageing, depression and anxiety were often overlooked as a ‘normal’ part of the process.

“Depression and anxiety should not be considered a normal part of getting older and symptoms of these conditions may often be attributed to other chronic illnesses, but depression and anxiety in older people can be treated and improve the person's quality of life immensely.”