To identify Australian resources on the issue of the mental health and wellbeing of people in receipt of aged care, the ARIIA Knowledge and Implementation Hub conducted a desktop environmental scan. This broad and multidimensional topic had been nominated as a priority for the sector without further qualification. This choice might therefore reflect the workforce’s commitment to maintaining or boosting the mental health and wellbeing of older people. It might equally convey a concern for managing older people with mental conditions. To understand which end of the mental health and wellbeing continuum was of interest to the sector, the scan adopted an inductive approach to identifying resources. Search terms were kept as broad and inclusive as possible, and websites and resources were included regardless of their focus. Concepts and their descriptive terms included:
- Aged care, residential care, nursing home, home care
- Mental health, wellbeing, well-being, positive psychology, psychological, emotional, psychiatric, depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, mental illness, mental disorder, mental condition.
Terms were tried in different combinations using the Advanced Search feature of Google. This advanced option offers the ability to limit a search to information held on websites with specific characteristics. These include:
- Sites based in Australia
- Sites for non-commercial organisations (.org.au), those affiliated with government (.gov.au), or Australian educational organisations, including universities (.edu.au)
- PDF resources.
To not rely solely on Google’s ability to identify resources, we also looked more deeply and methodically at the websites of major Australian health and social care organisations. Organisations were added to this list if they were peak bodies for mental health (e.g., Beyond Blue) or organisations representing mental health professionals (e.g., Australian Psychological Society). Those who had made a submission on the mental health of older people to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety were also of interest. An Evidence Advisory Group for this priority topic will be convened soon. This group may suggest additional resources based on their knowledge of the issue.
The environmental scan identified 72 websites with content that required further scrutiny. Many of these were eliminated based on their:
- Applicability to aged care
- Lack of informative content
- Author credentials
- Currency (only resources from 2018 onwards were included unless currency was not relevant)
- Stability as a resource.
The scan found few resources focused on concepts of wellbeing and positive mental health in ageing. Most resources were concerned with the mental health problems of older Australians in residential aged care, alongside their difficulties accessing psychological services to the same extent as people living in their own homes. Many Primary Health Network (PHN) websites were retrieved but not included. These were announcing localised psychological in-reach programs to residential aged services commissioned with government funding since the findings of the Royal Commission. It was not always clear if these programs were time-limited or intended to be ongoing.
A total of 33 resources were included in the final set. Many of these were provided by the Commonwealth Government Department of Health (and Ageing), Australian Psychological Society, Relationships Australia, Beyond Blue, and Mental Health Australia. Item types include toolkits, guidance, videos, and e-learning modules for use by staff in both home and residential aged care. Regularly scheduled scans for new resources will also ensure the content is kept up to date.