The elderly self-report more depression and are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants in long term care facilities according to a new study. This recent study reported at ScienceDaily (May 9, 2008), was conducted by social work students at Indian University.
The researchers studied 272 elders with an average age of 81, and compared how often they self-reported depression, and were prescribed antidepressants at home or at a long-term care facility. The study was conducted through a homecare agency in west central Indiana.
While 11% of the elders reported feeling depressed when they received care in their homes through medical and social services, 30% of the elders reported the same depressive feelings at a long-term care facility. Also, 62% of the elders in long-term care facilities were prescribed antidepressants at some point time after their admission, compared to only about 25% of the elders cared for at home.
Lindsay Egan and Jodi Shapuras, both undergraduate students in the social work program at Indiana State University, conducted their study at their internships as part of a senior-level field practicum class. Shapuras and Egan stated “We are both interested in working with the elderly population in our careers, so we conducted this research to get a better feel for the prevalence of depression and those who need some level of outside care.” Shapuras stated “As social workers, it is important to understand the mental health issues, such as depression, within the different care settings.”
Neither of the researchers seemed to be too surprised by their findings. “We actually hypothesized that the long-term care patients would utilize antidepressants more and would self-report depression more,” Egan said. “When an individual moves to a long-term care facility, they undergo a tremendous amount of changes. They’re no longer able to live independently and are relying on others for care, and this greatly affects how they feel about themselves and the world around them.” Shapuras concluded that in an individual’s home, they’re still residing in a familiar environment. “They’re still at home and independently able to complete some activities of daily living, such as bathing, cooking or feeding themselves, whereas a long-term care patient may not be able to do all of those tasks.” She concluded.
The researchers are hoping that their study will help to create a higher level of awareness of depression among the elderly, and the degree to which antidepressants are prescribed in long-term care settings. Egan stated “I would like to see more effective alternative treatments researched, as opposed to what seems to in many cases to be the automatic prescribing an antidepressant.” Shapuras also said she would like to see more research done in this area and concluded that “It seems as though medications are sometimes viewed as the “fix-all” when depression becomes apparent.” She went on to say, “I hope to work in the field of gerontology as a social worker and to make some positive changes somewhere along the line.”
By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist
Information adapted from:
Indiana State University (2008, May 9). Elderly In Long-term Care Setting Suffer Depression More Than Those Cared For At Home. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/05/080508181557.htm