Allied health aged care services
Allied Health Professions Australia provides a list of professionals that can provide a range of services in aged care facilities, including:
- occupational therapists
- optometrists and orthoptists
- dental services
- physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors
- exercise physiologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists
- art therapists and music therapists
- speech pathologists
- specialist nursing services, such as diabetes educators and wound care.
Accessing allied health aged care services
The My Aged Care website provides a referral point for older people to access assessment and funding for the allied health services they need (refer to Part C: My Aged Care).
There are differences in the types of allied health services that can be accessed in the community compared with in RACFs. These are outlined below.
Allied health services provided in the community
Allied health services provided for those living in the community are funded through a GP chronic disease management plan or though Medicare-funded mental health services. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs and private health insurance also fund allied health services. Some services may require a co-payment, because rebates may not cover the full cost of the treatment. Access to allied health professionals, medical specialists and services may also be available through community health centres and programs funded by primary health networks.1
Allied health services provided in RACFs
Access to allied health services is limited in RACFs and depends on whether the RACF is funded to include the service and the services are available in the area (eg access to mental health services in RACFs).
A geriatrician is an expert in the medical diagnosis and management of the health of older people across the complexity of the multiple conditions that may be present in older patients and in the diagnosis and management of geriatric syndromes.2 For example, people who are diagnosed with dementia must have medications started by a geriatrician. Access to geriatric and specialist support in aged care is determined by their availability in a patient’s area and is particularly difficult to access in regional and remote areas.
Medication management in RACFs is complex and requires the involvement of residents and their families with the multidisciplinary healthcare team including doctors, nurses, carers and pharmacists (refer to Part A: Medication management and Part B: Principles of medication management and Collaboration and multidisciplinary team-based care).
Residential medicines management reviews provide an important support for the treating GP in the quality use of medicines and are described in other chapters of the Silver Book (refer to Part A: Medication management, Polypharmacy, Deprescribing and Palliative and end-of-life care and Part B: Principles of medication management).3 Accredited pharmacists, credentialed pharmacists on staff at the RACF and GPs can work collaboratively to decide on doses, appropriateness, dose form, optimum delivery device, monitoring, drug interactions and contraindications with certain medicines.
There are many resources, services and support groups available for a particular need or situation (eg caring for someone living with dementia, chronic disease, incontinence, mental health condition, hearing, vision and oral health difficulties, disability or someone nearing the end of their life). Carer Gateway provides carer-specific in-person telephone and online services.
Disease-specific support groups that people and their families/carers can access include: