Like people of any age, older people may experience problems with their mental health. Sometimes specialist mental health services are needed. In NSW, public mental health services for older people are called Older People’s Mental Health Services or OPMH services.
What are OPMH services?
OPMH services provide both in-hospital (inpatient) and out-of-hospital (community) care to older people with mental health problems. Our services are generally provided to people aged 65 years and over. People under 65 years of age, including Aboriginal people 50 years and over, can also use this service if it is suitable for their needs.
OPMH services have nursing and medical staff, and many also have allied health staff including social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists. Some services have peer workers. Our staff are trained to help with mental health problems and other health concerns associated with ageing.
What do OPMH services do?
We provide specialist care to older people who have developed, or are at risk of developing, a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or psychosis.
We also provide help to people with severe and persistent behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia – also described as ‘changed’ behaviours, ‘behaviours of concern’ or behaviours that are distressing to the person with dementia and their carers and family.
We provide specialist mental health:
- assessment – an evaluation of a person’s mental, emotional and social needs
- diagnosis – identification of a mental health condition based on symptoms at a point in time
- care and treatment – a care plan will be developed with the older person with mental health problems and with their carers and family as appropriate. This will focus on the person’s recovery goals and mental health needs and outline the care and treatment that will be provided, such as a ‘talking therapy’ like cognitive behaviour therapy or providing or reviewing medication.
We work in partnership with other services to get the care needed for an older person with mental health problems, and involve a range of services as necessary.
Importantly, we aim to provide care that is focused on recovery and is guided by the person with mental health problems, together with their carer and family.
Residential care for older people with mental illness
OPMH services provide specialist mental health clinical care and support to older people living in residential aged care facilities, working in partnership with the aged care providers. This includes older people with mental illness and age-related issues and older people with severe and persistently challenging behaviours associated with dementia or mental illness, or both.
These mental health-residential aged care partnership services are being expanded under the Pathways to Community Living Initiative (PCLI) and the NSW OPMH Service Plan 2017-2027.
Community care and support programs
Older people with severe mental illness may need psychosocial support to assist them to live in the community. Support may include accommodation support or support to live at home, support with engagement in social activities, self-help and peer support and information, advocacy and health promotion.
Many of these supports are provided by non-government organisations and complement the specialist mental health clinical care provided by OPMH services.
The Housing and Accommodation Support (HASI) and Community Living Supports (CLS) are two key programs offering psychosocial supports in NSW.
Community aged care supports are provided through the Commonwealth Home Support Program and Commonwealth Home Care Packages Program, predominantly by non-government organisations. These are accessed via My Aged Care. Mental health support may be accessed as part of an aged care package.