While depression is a significant problem amongst the general population at any given time — with approximately 10 percent of people suffering from depression — it can reach epidemic proportions within nursing homes.
According to the American Geriatrics Society, depression can affect approximately 40 percent of nursing home residents in a given year. But in nursing homes, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated — or treated as a “normal” component of aging.
New research from the University of Missouri has discovered a set of indicators associated with the development of depression in nursing home residents.
“Prompt diagnosis and treatment of depression is essential to improve the quality of life for nursing home residents,” said Lorraine Phillips, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing.
“Many elderly people develop certain clinical characteristics at the same time they develop depression. Understanding these changes is essential to quickly and accurately diagnosing depression in nursing home residents.”
Changes in characteristics that Phillips and fellow researchers found to be associated with the development of depression include:
- Increased verbal aggression;
- Urinary incontinence;
- Increased pain;
- Weight loss;
- Changes in care needs;
- Reduced cognitive ability;
- Decline in performance of daily living activities (such as bathing or dressing).
“Depression is currently diagnosed using several methods that emphasize mood symptoms including interviewing and self-reporting of depression symptoms,” Phillips said.
“However, since elderly depression may appear with non-mood symptoms, these characteristics identified in this study can help diagnose depression that may be overlooked by traditional screening methods.”
Phillips found that residents with increased verbal aggression were 69 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who had not shown these changes.
The research indicates that men and women in nursing homes are equally likely to develop depression — a difference from the overall population, where women are more likely than men to experience depression.
MU researchers analyzed data on more than 14,000 nursing home residents aged 65 and older who were not diagnosed with depression at the beginning of the study.
Researchers analyzed changes in various clinical factors, other than mood changes, to discover which changes were associated with the development of depression during a three-month interval.
The data was collected from the Missouri Minimum Data Set, a federally mandated process for clinical assessment of all residents in Medicare- or Medicaid-certified nursing homes.
The study was published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.
Source: University of Missouri