Tech project targets depression among home care recipients

Swinburne University of Technology and Silverchain are co-designing and piloting a digital intervention for depression for seniors.

Swinburne University of Technology and home care provider Silverchain have teamed up to co-design and pilot a digital intervention for depression in older adults living at home.

The project has received $200,000 in funding via the third round of grants announced recently from sector transformation collaboration Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia.

Silverchain, which has contributed $40,000 to the grant, and Swinburne, are aiming to address a lack of access to effective and appropriate mental health treatments for seniors ageing at home who experience significant symptoms of depression.  

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

“The entire project will involve developing, testing and refining,” a spokesperson for the project told Community Care Review. “There are some initial logistics to work through and we hope to start in earnest by May.”

Professor Sunil Bhar

Swinburne clinical geropsychologist Professor Sunil Bhar said digital delivery allowed 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.

The project also builds on the partnership’s previous work that found older people were interested in using digital technologies to support their wellbeing, he said.

“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,” Professor Bhar said.

Professor Tanya Davison

Silverchain director of research discovery Professor Tanya Davison said this would be 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,” Professor Davison said in a statement.

While a separate program, this project fits under the same broad umbrella of developing models of care for mental health in the aged care setting as Silverchain’s project with Monash University to implement and evaluate a non-electronic EMBED model to facilitate early detection and use of evidence-based treatment of depression in home aged care recipients.

That project received almost $2 million in September via a Medical Research Future Fund Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care grant. Then, in November, Silverchain secured almost $150,000 with project partner National Ageing Research Institute to implement technology-supported home-based care for older Australians as one of five winners in the first round of ARIIA’s Grants program.

ARIIA funds 14 projects this round

In this round, Silverchain’s project was one of 14 winning projects, all of which must be undertaken over the next 12 months – which is much speedier than traditional research schedules.

The projects collectively target the priority areas of dementia care; rehabilitation, reablement and restorative care; mental health and wellbeing; social isolation; urgent and critical need; end of life and palliative care; and meaningful lifestyle activities.

ARIIA research director Professor Sue Gordon said the ARIIA Grants enabled the recipients to undertake projects that would make a significant difference in the aged care sector.

Professor Sue Gordon

“It is also good to see aged care providers and research organisations working together and partnering with others to deliver improvements in areas of need, and as they must make a co-contribution to their project, they have a firm commitment to it,” she said.

“I look forward to seeing how the grant recipient’s projects result in practical outcomes, and real-world solutions with efficiency and immediacy that was previously unheard of.”

The ARIIA Grants Program consists of at least six rounds funded against key sector priorities of focus for the aged care sector that are revised each grant round.

Round 4 recipients will be announced soon, and applications for Round 5 are open until 28 April 2023.

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Tags: featured, Silverchain, sunil bahr, swinburne-university-of-technology, tanya davison,

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