The recent dismissal of the murder charge against an elderly Western Australian man suffering from dementia highlights the need for the Western Australian Government to increase the number of high dependency mental health beds available for older people throughout the state, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)has urged.
‘Recent cases show we need to prioritise the planning and delivery of services to support the needs of elderly Western Australians with severe behavioural disturbance,’ Dr Elizabeth Moore, Chair of the Western Australian Branch of the RANZCP said.
‘It is urgent that we address the gap in the continuity of care, particularly concerning the needs of high dependency older people with dementia, as they are such a vulnerable group of people.
‘Western Australia has a significant shortage of high dependency accommodation for elderly people with severe behavioural disturbance, with only 16 beds available throughout the state.
‘At present elderly people, with severe mental health issues, are accommodated as long stay patients in acute mental health units while they wait for up to two years for a bed in a High Dependency Unit at a residential aged care facility.
‘This is unacceptable and has significant implications, not just for patients, but also for their families and carers,’ Dr Moore said.
‘People need to have a system where they can feel confident entrusting their loved ones. The Western Australian government needs to invest in more beds, and new purpose-built infrastructure, to care for the needs of these vulnerable patients.
‘While the state government has stated that its plan is to increase the number of Older Adult Long-Stay beds by 10, current modelling tells us that the state needs approximately 90 beds to cope with the demand on the system.
‘The increasing mental health needs of elderly people in WA requires appropriate planning and resourcing.
‘We need an overall increase in clinical care services in community settings, and an increase in the number of acute, sub-acute and non-acute mental health beds for elderly people who can’t be accommodated at home or in residential aged care,’ Dr Moore said.
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.