Dealing with depression in aged care

Monday, October 30, 2017

Did you know, according to research 1 in 3 residential care residents suffers from depression? If you are in or working towards a career in aged care, understanding the risk factors, symptoms and what to do is vital.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australian men aged over 85 have the highest suicide rate in the country. For males aged 85 and over, the suicide rate was 39.3 from every 100,000 individuals; the female suicide rate was 5.7 for the same age bracket.

Life can become more challenging in many ways as people age, but there is help available for ageing Australians who are depressed. The first step is to identify the risk factors and symptoms.


Risk factors for depression in aged care

Mental health issues are far from uncommon in aged care, so let’s look at the risk factors for older Australians in your care.

According to Beyondblue, risk factors for Australia’s older individuals include the following:

  • an increase in physical health problems/conditions, e.g. heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease
  • chronic pain
  • side-effects from medications
  • losses: relationships, independence, work and income, self-worth, mobility and flexibility
  • social isolation
  • significant change in living arrangements, e.g. moving from living independently to a care setting
  • admission to hospital
  • particular anniversaries and the memories they evoke.

Spotting the symptoms of depression in older people

While it’s normal to have good and bad days, if an older individual in your care has been feeling low for two weeks or more, they may be suffering from depression.

Usually the period of feeling sad or down is accompanied by signs like:

  • Sleeping more or less than normal
  • Change in appetite
  • Lack of self care
  • Feeling agitated, confused or worried
  • Low self-esteem
  • Withdrawal from people who care or usual activities

What you can do to help

If you are concerned that someone you care for is suffering from depression, there are many treatment options to explore. Treatments include medication, counselling, psychologists and alternative therapies. A combination of these could be useful.

A good first step is for the person to speak with their doctor as they will be able to assess whether current medication is having an effect or refer patients to the right specialist who can help.

Keep an eye on the older individuals in your care to make sure they get the assistance required in their times of need.



Source: National Ageing Research Institute, Depression in older age: A scoping study, 2009—nari-2009-full-report—minus-appendices.pdf?sfvrsn=1f53b1e9_4


Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015 data




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