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Lecture looks at treatment of older adults


Brigid Veale
14 August 2009
How to assess and treat neurological changes in older people will be the focus of a guest lecture by an international expert in aged care research at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus on August 21.

Associate Professor Nancy Pachana, a geriatric clinical and neuropsychologist based at the University of Queensland, has travelled widely throughout Australia to train clinicians and scientists in the assessment of older people.

Dr James Donnelly, a lecturer in the Bachelor of Psychology at Coffs Harbour and former head of neuropsychology at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, said this would be a great opportunity for older people, carers and health professionals to hear about the latest developments in this area of aged care research.

“What we are really looking at is how we can help older adults remain independent and if they do end up in residential care, how we can manage things to minimise distress,” Dr Donnelly said.

“There is a lot of good work being done in assessing the physical and social needs. What we are looking at is refining that approach by having a complete assessment that also looks at psychological health and brain function.

“We would like to help detect those who might be experiencing memory or attention problems because they are depressed as well as those who have a disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr Donnelly said the goal was to allow for customised approaches to the care of older people, leading to better overall outcomes for the individual and carers.

“We want to be able to look at people’s strengths, not just the areas where they may be losing function,” he said.

Associate Professor Pachana has extensive experience in the assessment of cognitive decline in older adults, measurement and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders in later life, functional assessment in later life, interventions with older populations, and general health and well-being in later life.

Her clinical expertise includes neuropsychological assessment across diverse settings, and clinical interventions in long-term care settings, outpatient settings and specialist clinical services.

Dr Donnelly said he had begun to work closely with a range of health professionals in the Coffs Harbour region, including the Aged Care Assessment Team.

Together with Professor Colleen Cartwright at Southern Cross University’s Aged Services Learning and Research Centre (ASLaRC), he hopes to further develop research collaborations in this field and provide ongoing professional development opportunities.

The free guest lecture ‘Assessment and Treatment Issues with Older Adults’ is open to all members of the public, carers and health professionals. It will be held at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus, D Block lecture theatre, on Friday, August 21, at 3pm (followed by refreshments).

To RSVP, please contact Tara Kocek via email at

Photo: Associate Professor Nancy Pachana.