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Aged Care Counselling

Course CodeBPS212
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


Would you like to learn more about the ageing process and supporting older people?

This course will help you to -
  • Understand the changes that come with age
  • Develop an empathy that allows you to provide real, practical support as people age
  • Understand the lifestyle changes that can occur with ageing.
  • Understand common health issues that arise as a person ages.
  • Learn more about enablement with older people.
  • Understanding grief and loss for older people.
  • Learn more about coping with old age and terminal illness.
  • Understand the ethics of working with older people

Do you work with older people? Do you live with an older person? Would you like to work with older people?

  • Then this course will give you an insight into how to support older people with dignity and respect.
  • Increase your job prospects by gaining more knowledge of supporting older people.
  • Increase your career prospects by increasing your knowledge of the care of the elderly.
  • Learn more about how to support older people in your own home or care.

As a person gets older things change in their life: everything from lifestyle to health and their capacity to do things, through to those activities which they choose to pursue.

This course helps you understand these changes, and the ways in which a counsellor, carer or anyone else might interact with and support an older person.

This course is suitable for -

  • Carers
  • Support workers
  • Counsellors
  • Social Workers
  • Community Workers
  • Nurses
  • Voluntary workers
  • Anyone working or living with an older person.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Understanding Ageing:
    • Gerontology, What do we mean by Ageing? Population Ageing, The Effects of the Ageing Population, Theories of Human Development, Erikson’s Theory of Development, Levinson , Theories of Retirement, Disengagement Theory, Activity Theory, Atchley’s Model of Retirement
  2. Lifestyle Changes:
    • Relationships, Relationships with Children, Relationships with Partners (Husband/wife), Relationships with Grandchildren, Friendships, Sexuality and Older People, Cognitive Changes, Intelligence, Depression, Determining Type of Depression, Unipolar Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Causes of Depression, Risk factors for Depression, Men and Depression, Depression in Older People, Symptoms
  3. Deterioration of Health
    • Physical Changes: Skin, Hair, Height, Senses, Reflexes, Sex, Eyes, Chronic Health Problems, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gout, etc. Exercise, Diet, Nutrition, Eating habits, etc. Pain relief, Medication, Stress.
  4. Support Services
    • Preventative Services, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Complimentary Practitioners, Counselling Professionals, Other Support Services (eg. Meals on Wheels, Funeral Services)
  5. Enablement Techniques
    • Common Risks for Elderly: Risk of Falling, Vision, Hearing, Nutrition, Sexuality. Techniques to maintain Quality of Life: Driving a car, banking, shopping, house cleaning, Gardening, Socialising, Pets, Exercise, Sport
  6. Grief and Loss Counselling
    • What is grief, Psychological aspects of Long Term Grief: Family, Work, Financial, Loneliness, Morality after bereavement, Counsellors Response and Intervention, Practical Intervention, Depression
  7. Debilitating and Terminal Illness
    • Dementia, Kinds of Dementia (Alzheimers Disease, Vascular Dementia); Strategies for Counselling the Demented Client; Communication, Daily Activities, Sleeping Difficulties, Hallucinations and Delusions, Wandering, Depression, Terminal Illness: Patients Response, Anxiety, Depression, Guilt & Anger, Defence Mechanisms. Preparing for Approaching Death; Practical Preparations, Emotional Responses, Responses of Friends and Family
  8. Losing a Loved One
    • Importance of Loss, Assessment, Role of the Deceased, Death of a Child, Stigmatised Death, Co-Morbidity. Counselling Strategies: Bibliotherapy, Use of Rituals, Bereavement Support Groups. Special Therapeutic Situations: Traumatic, Sudden, and Stigmatised Loss, Ongoing Support, Social Stigmas of Suicide
  9. Ethics and Intervention
    • Barriers to Aged Care Counselling, Addressing the Client’s Needs, COMMON LEGAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES IN AGED CARE: Decision Making Capacity, Competence, Informed Consent, Confidentiality, Euthanasia, etc

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • To discuss theories of ageing, and to develop an understanding of the different stages of human development.
  • To describe the psychological impact of changes which occur as a person reaches old age
  • To understand the effect of physical health problems on older people.
  • Describe the nature and scope of support services, including counselling, for the elderly.
  • Describe a range of solutions that can enable an elderly person to adapt to changed
  • circumstances in order to continue performing tasks or pursuing interests that are becoming increasingly difficult for them.
  • Explain how a variety of counselling techniques can be applied to specific Grief and loss situations for counselling elderly persons.
  • Develop a strategy for counselling an elderly person who has been diagnosed with a debilitating or terminal illness.
  • Develop a strategy for counselling an elderly person who has lost a loved one.
  • Determine when and how to intervene in the life of an elderly person

Tips for Working with the Elderly

Barriers to Aged Care Counselling

There are some barriers which can impede effective communication that are more specific to the aged population. Such barriers include cognitive decline, psychiatric illnesses, the effect of medication, and sensory impairment. The counsellor needs to assess the motivational level of the elderly client and proceed according to their needs. As such, it is necessary to work with the client in setting priorities, time parameters, joint goals of counselling, suitable termination of counselling, and to determine when or if it is necessary to refer the patient on to another health care professional. Other issues to be considered include the budgetary constraints of the client. Furthermore, whilst a client may be elderly, a competent counsellor ought not to make assumptions based solely on age. One should take into consideration all available information from other health care professionals in conjunction with working with the client, so as to determine an appropriate counselling strategy.

Addressing the Client’s Needs

Whether counselling elderly or younger clients, it is imperative that the counsellor continuously strive to satisfy the client’s needs, rather than their own. Whilst there is nothing ethically wrong with the counsellor gaining work satisfaction, it should never be to the detriment of the client. Part of the solution to putting the clients’ needs first is to work through one’s own issues and belief systems so as to improve self-awareness and recognise areas of weakness and prejudice that one might have. In doing so, it is possible to limit interference to the therapeutic process through projection. It may also be necessary to undergo therapy oneself to work through existing conflicts which resurface during the counselling process.

As a counsellor one also needs to keep in check other less disturbing needs, such as: the need for power, the need to help others, the need to feel respected and appreciated, or the need to convert others into sharing our own values. It is acceptable to have some needs met through the counselling process in order to attain a degree of job satisfaction. The problem arises when the counsellor becomes so focussed on their own need for satisfaction that the needs of their clients are not met. It is therefore an ethical obligation for the counsellor to periodically evaluate whether their own personality is negatively impacting upon the therapeutic process.


The most common legal and ethical issues in aged care counselling involve the client’s decision making capacity and competence. In cases where the client is deemed to be unable to make competent decisions then those who are able to make decisions on the client’s behalf must be identified. It may also be necessary to resolve the client’s conflicts about receiving care through counselling before proceeding. Issues relating to disclosure of information to others, termination of treatment at the end of life, and decisions about long-term care, are also pertinent. There are similarities in the resolution of these issues across all age groups. Nevertheless, the physiological, psychological, and social reserves of the elderly place them at higher risk of unfavourable outcomes. In addition, the elderly often lack the support of family and friends which can make them particularly vulnerable to the whims of counsellors and other health care professionals. It is incumbent upon the counsellor to ensure that their clients are fully informed throughout the counselling process, and never intentionally misled.

The aged care counsellor also has a duty of care to his or her client to offer assistance or referral for legal help if they suspect, as sometimes happens with the elderly, that their clients have been the victim of a scheme intended to extort money or defraud them of property or personal wealth. 

ACS Student comment:     Yes it was [a valuable learning experience]. I have been a nurse for over 25 years and my knowledge regarding aging and in particular healthy aging was practically non-existent. I enjoyed some aspects of the counseling. Yes it did [reach my expectations] and more. The grief and loss, losing a loved one, retirement, debilitating illness and the section on preparing for approaching death [were of particular interest]. It was presented in a very logical, methodical order. I received good feedback from my Tutor. I enjoyed the course and definitely believed I gained a lot from completing the course. Suzanne Payne - Aged Care & Counselling course

Dementia affect Many Older People

Dementia is a condition in which a person progressively loses mental ability, including the ability to remember, think and reason. It can affect memory, decision-making, problem-solving, learning, and the ability to care for oneself. Eventually, when the dementia has reached a severe stage, the person is no longer able to perform the tasks of daily living.

Dementia is not a disease in itself. It is a group of symptoms caused by a number of diseases or conditions that affect the brain. Some of these causes are 'reversible' and can be treated, for example brain tumours, depression and alcohol dependence. Other causes are 'irreversible' and cannot be cured.

Dementia, a progressive brain dysfunction, leads to a gradually increasing restriction of daily activities. It is what is called senility by the layperson, the deterioration of intellectual functioning until social and occupational functions are impaired. The most well-known type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease.

The prevalence of dementia increases with age. It is estimated that around 1% of people aged 65 – 74 have dementia, 4% of those aged 75 to 84, and 10% of those over 84. These figures may be underestimates, as some people will die from some causes of dementia. Dementia is caused by many conditions that affect the brain. Some causes of dementia can be reversed, and others cannot. The major signs are memory loss, confusion, disorientation and lessening of intellectual functioning. Dementia can come on slowly over a period of years, subtle changes can occur, such as difficulty remembering things, especially recent events is a prominent symptom of dementia.

Examples include –

  •    Starting to run the tap then leaving the room.
  •    Being unable to remember the name of their son or daughter.

They may also develop poor hygiene, forget to bath or dress adequately. Their judgement may become faulty and may have difficulties making plans or decisions. They may also lose control of their impulses, for example, tell coarse, inappropriate jokes, make sexual advances to strangers, shoplift etc. Other times, they may have symptoms of depression, such as flatness of affect, emotional outbursts. Around 50% of patients may experience hallucinations and delusions. Some people with dementia may have disturbances with language, such as vague patterns of speech. They may have difficulties recognising familiar surroundings. Episodes of delirium may also occur.

The course of dementia can be progressive, static or remitting, depending on the cause of the dementia. People with progressive dementia will eventually become withdrawn and apathetic. In the terminal phase of the dementia, their personality loses its sparkle and integrity.

Relatives and friends may say that the person is not themselves any more. Social involvement with others will become more and more narrow. Finally, they will be oblivious to their surroundings.

Treatable conditions that can cause dementia include a high fever, dehydration, vitamin deficiency and poor nutrition, bad reactions to medicines, problems with the thyroid gland, or a minor head injury or tumour. Medical conditions like these can be serious and should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Among other causes are medical conditions (thyroid disease, drug toxicity, thiamine deficiency with alcoholism, and others), brain injury, strokes, multiple sclerosis, infection of the brain (such as meningitis and syphilis), HIV infection, hydrocephalus, Pick's disease, and brain tumours.

There are four main types of dementia –

  •    Alzheimer’s Disease – the most common.
  •    Frontal-temporal Dementia – this describes the area of the brain that is most affected.
  •    Frontal-subcortical Dementia – again describes the area of the brain most affected.
  •    Vascular Dementias – caused by stroke.

Conditions or diseases that cause irreversible dementia, especially in older people, include Alzheimer's disease (AD), dementia with Lewy bodies, and multi-infarct dementia (MID), also called vascular dementia.

Why Should YOU Take This Course

There are a lot of courses out there, but this course focusses specifically on supporting and caring for older people. 
So take this course now to -
  • Improve your knowledge of older people and the changes they experience as they age
  • Gain employment in the elderly care area
  • Improve your career and promotion prospects in caring for older people
  • Learn to care for older people with dignity and respect.
  • Enrol now and find out more about caring for older people in a knowledgeable and caring way.

Meet some of our academics

Gavin ColePsychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Gavin is both a highly experienced Psychologist and tutor. Gavin has over 25 years experience in the Psychology industry, and has been working with ACS since 2001. He has worked in both Australia and England, and has been involved in writing numerous books and courses in Psychology and Counselling
Lyn QuirkM.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.
Tracey JonesWidely published author, Psychologist, Manager and Lecturer. Over 10 years working with ACS and 25 years of industry experience. Qualifications include: B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), Dip. SW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies).

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