Older Aussies locked out of mental health support

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Australia has a problem when it comes to giving older Australians access to mental health services. Leading peak national organisation COTA says existing policy is designed to lock out older Australians living in residential aged care from accessing essential services. The organisation has launched a petition to tackle the problem.

Yesterday, COTA Australia CEO Ian Yates released figures stating that 175,000 older Australians living in aged care homes are ineligible to access Medicare-funded mental health treatment through a specially-designed program, which aims to streamline community access to mental health services.  

The Better Access to Mental Health Care program, introduced in 2006 by the Liberal Government, can be accessed by those living in their own homes and receiving a high-level Home Care Package, but excludes aged-care residents. The supposed logic is that those living in residential care can access mental health treatment plans and associated psychological therapies through their aged care provider. However, Mr Yates says, due to lack of funding, this simply isn’t happening enough. 

While launching the public petition yesterday, Mr Yates suggested that the situation was reminiscent of a time before basic citizenship rights, when older people were removed from the community and ‘put away’ in nursing homes.

“This policy still treats them as though they are institutionalised and without any control over their own lives,” said Mr Yates.

According to Beyond Blue, between 10 and 15 per cent of older Australians experience depression and about 10 per cent experience anxiety. Rates in depression among people living in residential aged care are exponentially higher, at 35 per cent. Yet, research by Sydney and Deakin universities has repeatedly shown that less than two per cent receive the treatment clinically recommended to them.

“Given the high incidence of depression and other mental health conditions suffered by resident of aged care facilities, there is clearly a problem here that needs to be urgently addressed,” he said.

COTA’s petition is an appeal to the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, to revise the program’s policy to include those living in aged care, giving them access to the Medicare-funded psychological treatment.

“The new Minister for Health needs to make this an urgent and early priority. We are calling on him to take it to Cabinet, where the Government must agree to reverse this historical anomaly so that nursing home residents have the same access to mental health services as everyone else.

“Our frailest older Australians deserve the best care we can offer,” said Mr Yates.

Read more at cota.org.au

Sign the petition at healthforolderaustralians.org.au

Opinion: Elderly are suffering in silence

A recent investigation by Fairfax Media earlier this month revealed the systematic, widespread suffering of aged-care residents, whose mental health needs are being neglected. Legal and health experts say that this is directly caused by the “ridiculous” Medicare rule that locks aged-cared residents out of mental health services.

The Government might try to claim that depressed residents’ needs are taken care of through the aged care system, but the reality is that these homes almost never pay for clinical mental health treatments. The Fairfax Media investigation found that this is because the Government hasn’t actually given them adequate funding or legal influence to do so.

Ronda Gordon, 87, is a nursing home resident from Adelaide who suffers from a non-progressive motor neurone disease and who isn’t allowed to have Medicare-funded psychology treatments because of the exclusion policy. She highlighted the very real challenge of tackling both her own deteriorating health, while living alongside those suffering from dementia, while being of sound mind herself.

“It’s very difficult living in an area where you have your mental state and a deterioration in your body… and you have your full faculties, and living amongst people that are mentally not sound. It’s very hard, from day-to-day.

“Most workers who work in this area find it gratifying but they can walk off and go home into the community. They don’t spend 24-hours a day amongst it, day in, day out,” said Ms Gordon.

Whether the answer is to revise the Better Access to Mental Health Care program to give aged-care residents access to services, or to better equip aged care facilities to support the mental health treatment of their residents, something must be done. No one deserves to suffer in silence; being denied help that could improve their quality of life – especially not a group of people who are already flagged as having high rates of depression and anxiety.

Surely, providing adequate mental health support is the least we can do for the oldest members of our community.

What do you think? Have you ever tried to access Medicare-funded mental health support? If you live in residential care, how have you found your emotional and psychological needs were being met?

If you or someone you know has depression, or if you have symptoms that significantly affect your life, work or relationships day-to-day, then it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. You can also call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

To read more about depression and grief, visit Beyond Blue and the NHSD.

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Written by ameliath


Total Comments: 56
  1. 0

    “The supposed logic is that those living in residential care can access mental health treatment plans and associated psychological therapies through their aged care provider. “

    Yeee-uussshh – I can see that happening… when the facility is run on a for-profit basis, it is pretty obvious that such services will be minimal, pretty much the same as with other services, as we keep hearing.

    Mind you, the hospital system isn’t much better in some ways… had to pick up the ex ar Moruya, some 500 miles away, and their food was supplied from Wollongong, a four hour drive away, meaning rubber meat etc. Too many bureaucrats and not enough coal-face workers… too many careers for sheilas being bosses in offices instead of cooking dinner.

    • 0

      Perhaps we should describe the care facility oldies as The Robbed Generation….. just saying…. I’m frankly appalled at some of the things I hear going on, and from what I’ve seen in the ex’s family. I get the feeling that these older citizens are considered a burden to the max, and just silly old buggars.

      Government has essentially abandoned its responsibilities here, not least by selling off the lotteries that were supposed to fund hospitals etc.

    • 0

      TREBOR…If this government can no longer bleed its people then it tries to kill them off through neglect and fear mongering tactics.

    • 0

      Imagine the total lack of heart in constantly engineering pressure and stress for older and mainly ailing in some way Australians.. it is decidedly UN-Australian.

    • 0

      For a very long time now I’ve put forward that politicians are by nature psychopaths.

    • 0

      Yes trebor, you raise your children, wipe their bums, their noses, nuture them to the best of your abilities.
      and then they turn around and dump them into these oldies facilities.
      Some children should be beaten twice a weak and remind they have oldies?
      and if they not start to look after them, they should be beaten more often.

    • 0

      you can’t blame everything on the government Jackie.
      these aged homes are run by companies, and profit is their aim!
      And those that put their parents into these place should be hung strung and quartered, its just a bad habit, thats become a sign of the times we live in!!

    • 0

      The treatment of the old, the inform and the unemployed here shows just how far this country has gone downhill since I was growing up. Nobody from my generation even questioned the right of older people to pension, or the obligation on a civilised society to care for its infirm, or the same obligation, even duty, to ensure those without work don’t go unfed.

      This current government of two parties, each hopelessly locked in some store-bought ideology from the university quadrangle, is an absolute disgrace to us, and to itself, and is a betrayal of everything once Australian.

      (hush – that was just me being nice)….

    • 0

      Buby, it’s not always the children’s fault. My mother refused to go anywhere else. We begged and pleaded with her to stay with us or my daughter… but NO. She wanted to go into an aged care home. She regretted it, but she stubbornly insisted on staying until death.

      The real problem is that the government allowed these homes to be privately run for profit. They should be non-profit service facilities run by government or charities. There will likely always be problems regardless, but allowing profiteering from the care of the aged is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

  2. 0

    Where do you think they are going to get the money to fund federal politician’s “ENTITLEMENTS”? Surely you see their ‘ENTITLEMENTS” are more important than the mental health of aged, suffering Australians? These “ENTITLEMENTS” have to be funded from somewhere; why not take it from the Health Budget?

    Susan just had to buy that apartment on the Gold Coast – how was she going to get to the auction without using a taxpayer funded jet? Could she take regular air service? What, mix with constituents who may have “mental” illness issues?

    “The new health minister Greg Hunt has charged taxpayers in excess of $20,000 for … travel to Queensland for him and his family, according to reports.” Surely to continue this he’ll need aged, suffering Australians to give up some services? Well he’s the minister after all!

    You people are soft, remember “the age of ENTITLEMENT is over”. Smokin’ Joe just forgot to say his statement applied to the Australian electorate, not politicians. It’s OK for Smokin’ Joe to work full time as Australian Ambassador (@ $390,000 a year, NOT including ‘baby sitting’ fees) and, at the same time, to draw down each year 50% of his parliamentary pension (at least $121,000) at the age of 51 – he’s ENTITLED to but you’re not. Get over it and respect such carpetbaggers.

    • 0

      Actually, I think we’ve been duped. If the Age Pension is called welfare because it’s funded by the taxpayers then the majority of pensions are welfare not entitlements.
      Ex politicians Linda and Michael Lavarch and Bill O’Chee, for example, left parliament twenty years or so ago in their mid thirties with a pension entitlement indexed for life. No way could they have accumulated enough super to carry them and their perks through to the end of their lives. In fact I’m sure they’ve used up what little they put in a long time ago, which means the taxpayers are fully funding them, which means they are on welfare.
      If politicians can call welfare payments ‘entitlements’ then it’s way past time for genuine pensioners to have the demeaning image of welfare recipients removed and entitlement put in its place.

    • 0

      We have been duped, Triss – this is a throwback to the old days of the Master and Servant Act…

      From the Roots of Cop Mythology ( a treatise on police culture)….

      p. 251 (Presumed guilty – Bret Christian)…

      “The colony was built initially on the backs of indentured servants, desperate refugees from grinding poverty in Britain, families who had signed ‘contracts of servitude’ with their masters, receiving three pounds a year from which they had eventually to repay their passage to the colony……

      They were slaves. Mostly illiterate, they had little or no voice. They could not leave their master’s premises without permission. They were given rations and possibly ‘indulgences’ that included vegetables, many servants and their children suffering scurvy. They drank too much and their children pilfered food.”

      p.252 …
      “Wealthy men, stolid Protestants, sat in judgement of their inferiors. Their iron grip was tightened by the Master and Servant Act of 1842, also known as the Rich Man’s Law, passed to strengthen the power of masters. The Legislative Council had voted into law this sentiment of a York farmer who wrote to the Perth Gazette on 28 August 1847: “It was ordained from the beginning of the world that there should be different denominations and classes of people … that there should be masters and servants.”

      I see parallels here with the current mob upstairs and their treatment of their servants….. the betters should always prosper, the peasants can eat cake. It’s the style our governments at all levels are based on…. I think I’ve known that since my teens.

    • 0

      What can we do about it? I refuse to be an abject object.

    • 0

      Vote them out and keep voting them out until they get the message… we are not their servants – rather – they are our servants and must behave as such.

      Stand for election yourself… get involved in a party for Seniors (the one last time around seemed to me to be run by a few conservative gentlemen – I could have been wrong)….

  3. 0

    Have you heard about putting older folk out in front of the igloo? Funny maybe, but there is a version of this already happening in Australia.
    Older Australians are being hit on every front. This government is trying to skin older Australians on every front: the pension, allowing employers to lock them out of paid work, benefits and probably a lot more.
    Until the aged get out of ‘dying’ mode and become involved at a political level they should expect more of the same. Ain’t going to change unless the bastards can see that older people care and not prepared to accept ongoing attacks on them as unavoidable.

    • 0

      Yes – we all need to get a firm grip on that courage and fortitude that has seen us through the evils of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, and step up to the plate on behalf of our descendants……

      We can do it – it takes a lot of grit to get old……

  4. 0

    It’s called “Stuff You…your past ur use by date!”
    Out with the garbage….we are spending money on the Walking Dead People!
    They don’t pay taxes…so they are Welfare Recipients…and we the Government….refuse to waste taxpayers money ptopping up the Old Age Zombies!
    Besides….they are broke!
    The retirement age was shifted to 70 to achieve that as well….Unemployed at 55….it’s your own fault! The Dole only pays 1/2 of what a Disability Pension pays….and they have made that so you have to be near death to attain!
    It’s all about cutting Welfare…..which to the LNP….is anyone unemployed for any reason!
    They only want to pay peanuts…regardless!
    Dismantling our System of providing for the Unfortunate by Stealth…..to move us to an American System of “Work u Peasants or get Nothing!”
    This is Un-Australian!
    Our system of Welfare excluded the Aged and the Sick from being ignored based on reward for obeying the Law and paying your taxes!
    Now they are changing it by Stealth…..excluding sections of Society from accessing what they have earned over an entire working life!
    In the meantime they are giving themselves pay rises well above anyone else……increases in expenses….and making themselves exempt from the same Laws & Taxes others have to pay!
    You bet it is?
    How best to Stop them?

    • 0

      And just to add to this, Not Senile Yet. I agree that both major parties have been corrupted. Taking the most liberal view, it is apparent that the Federal Parliamentarians travel rorts are widespread. Not a squeak from the opposition about the Minister for Health with her fingers caught in the till.(And this was uncovered by the media, not Parliamentarians or their over paid bureaucrats who do nothing but fawn on their masters) It is quite obvious that there is a truce between the two major parties to not bring to light travel rorts as they are all there shouldering each other out of the way to get their snouts in the taxpayers trough. And the Prime Ministers patronising response to his Senior Minister being caught out will achieve absolutely nothing. The tribunal that he sets up will most likely contain one former Politician who is owed a favour. Parliamentarians must be the dumbest people on earth when they cannot realise why Politicians are now held in such low esteem.
      So, don’t expect any contribution from either major party if you are nearing or have reached the end of your working life. You have reached your use by date, just hurry up and get out of the way.

  5. 0

    The governments for years have said , pay your taxes and we will look after you in later life, now they are reneging on that promise, so what incentive do younger Aussies have to pay taxes, if the current Governments want a revolution they are going about it the right way

  6. 0

    Can someone please post the total annual costings for politician’s ‘entitlements’ for current and past members for say the last three years and off-set that against the following costings for the same period:
    * Aged pensions including all supplements and add-ons
    * Bulk-billing for retirees, including GPs, specialists, testing (body fluids and imaging)
    * Prescription charges for retirees – including OTC medications
    * Provision of age care whether in-home or in a facility
    * Provision of health care visits by GPs to nursing and age care facilities
    * Provision of mental health care in age care facilities

    This list is just some of the things this forum has demanded the ‘entitlements’ of politicians be spent on. I think you will find the cost of the ‘entitlements’ will be a drop in the ocean of funding required for even one of the items on the list.

    Instead of calling on the Government to continually fund things we just can’t afford, why not ensure that age care facilities are actually delivering what they are meant to be delivering under their contracts with the Government. Any facility that is not delivering as they should, should have their license to operate cancelled – just like private colleges and childcare centres do.

  7. 0

    Yes, the logic behind this is appalling. I live in my own home independently. A few years ago I lost my husband, one of my sons, a dear aunt and a much loved friend, all in the space of 4 months. Initially I felt I was coping but after 2-3 years I realised I wasn’t and I sought help for the grief-upon-grief and subsequent depression. My GP referred me to a local government-supported service provider of mental health services. When I rang to make an appointment I was told that I was too old!!! I was about 67 years old at the time, and they didn’t accept anyone over 65. I was staggered, as was my GP.
    How can the government think that people over 65 do not suffer from depression, especially when as one ages there is more likelihood of losing loved/long term spouses for a start, apart from much loved friends. And of course there is the loss and grief associated with illness and/or disability of self or loved ones, plus any other mental illness that is not limited to those under 65 years of age.
    I thought then and I still think that this is an appalling ageist discrimination and a total neglect of the needs of our ageing population.

    • 0

      I wonder if, as a group, pensioners can go to the Human Rights Commission.
      According to their website Australians aged 65 years and over contribute almost $39 billion each year in unpaid caring and voluntary work. That must almost cancel out the age pension bill per annum. Isn’t it time we went into attack mode instead constantly trying to defend ourselves against a down and dirty government?

    • 0

      That’s a terrible situation to find yourself in, Dancer. I hope you managed to find help and are feeling much better now.

    • 0

      Good suggestion Triss… yes, let’s be part of the solution rather than part of the so-called “problem”. I wonder how to approach the Human Rights Commission – something for me to look into.

    • 0

      Thank you Amelia, yes I found excellent counselling service provided by Anglicare, not free but affordable for me.

    • 0

      Lest anyone forget – pensioners also pay taxes on every expenditure – even on the black market – since the black marketeer is but one step removed from the tax system – the moment he buys a beer, he pays tax.

      Please – everyone – stop confusing income tax with tax. We are ALL taxpayers til the day we die, and then some….

    • 0

      So stop volunteering Triss. Simple. No one makes anyone volunteer. That’s why its called volunteering.

    • 0

      I was trying to point out, KSS, that government and media are way off course when they try to convince everyone that the age pension is a burden to taxpayers.

    • 0

      I’ll investigate as well, Dancer. I’ll be called a conspiracy theorist but I feel that this constant chipping away at pensioners is on the way to genocide.

    • 0

      Triss, I prefer to call myself a lobbyist – and I do! I write letters to Politicians, Ministers, Senators, at both State and Federal level, if a particular issue riles me enough. And I believe that if we all did that rather than just moan, then perhaps some changes can be brought about. Write real letters, not emails, not blogs, and follow up for a reply, challenge the replies received if necessary, and keep doing it until you are satisfied with the response. I did this years ago when caring for my late husband, in order to obtain the help and equipment we needed, and we received what we needed in a much shorter time; I did it when the Federal Government mooted changing the way age pension increases were calculated in 2014/15; the end result of lobbying by organisations representing the aged (and perhaps others who lobbied) was that those proposals were dropped. Did I help influence that? I don’t know but I like to think my letters had some impact. Multiply my single lobbying by the thousands of pensioners doing the same and guess what? an impact must be made!

    • 0

      My mother died of depression at 90. No help from the aged care home she was advised, by her doctor, to go to because she needed care because she was depressed. He was right that she was not eating, but wrong that having good meals put in front of her three times daily would fix that. The nurses didn’t care that she didn’t eat the food – only that it was provided.

      I did all I could for her, but nothing I did was enough, and she wouldn’t let me do much. She was constantly harping on about me having to live my own life.

      Yes, Dancer, I lobbied politicians too. And sometimes I got results. Lately, though, all I get is garbage responses that don’t address the issue at all but just regurgitate political BS that we hear daily on the media. I honestly don’t think this government gives a hoot about public opinion, much less about doing what is good for the nation.

    • 0

      Rainey, I’m sorry to hear that your mother got little or no help. And yes, I agree that often the replies from politicians don’t address your actual complaint – in those cases I write again reiterating in stronger terms what I want – I am always polite but I call spade a spade and tell it like it is! Doesn’t always work but it makes me feel better and it has helped sometimes.

  8. 0

    If the Government had their way they’d line us all up against the wall and shoot us, as yet it’s not legal to do so.

  9. 0

    Hmmm – I notice that some of the hardcore knockers here simply vanish into thin air when confronted by Pensioners Rampant..

  10. 0

    The remedy is in our hands. We need to form a union, put aside all political views and vote en bloc for one party. If they do what we want, we leave them there, if they don’t we kick them out.

    Not entirely democracy under the Westminster system, but the Westminster system has been totally disregarded for decades anyway.

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