With more than one million Australians receiving in-home aged care, a lack of access to effective mental health treatments that meet their needs is a growing concern. It is estimated that up to half of the older people who choose to age at home experience significant symptoms of depression but many lack accessible treatment options.

A new project led by Swinburne University of Technology and leading home care provider Silverchain will seek to address this problem by co-designing and piloting a digital intervention for depression for older adults living at home.

The project has received funding from Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia (ARIIA).

The program, called e-EMBED (Electronic - Enhanced Management of Home-Based Elders with Depression) employs digital technologies to facilitate the delivery of effective psychological strategies to home care clients.

Digital delivery allows older adults the opportunity for self-directed and autonomous engagement with these treatment strategies for depression, and to access a broad range of resources to improve their wellbeing.

Swinburne clinical geropsychologist Professor Sunil Bhar says the project builds on the partnership’s previous work that found older people were interested in using digital technologies to support their wellbeing.

“The next step is to develop and pilot the digital psychological intervention for depression and evaluate its use in the home context.

“The design of the final product needs to be carefully planned together with people with depressive symptoms based on their preferences, level of digital literacy, and comfort using technology to improve their health and wellbeing.”

Silverchain Director of Research Discovery, Professor Tanya Davison says this is the first digitally enabled mental health intervention developed specifically for the home aged care setting.

“This program will enable older Australians to access evidence-based treatments and communicate effectively with a mental health clinician in the comfort of their own homes.

“Our team will develop new tools to tailor digitally enabled approaches to meet the needs and preferences of individual older people.

“This project demonstrates our commitment to be leaders in home care internationally, provide an evidence base for effective care and to improve the care we offer to more than 115,000 clients each year.”