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New Research: Senior Years – Golden or Blue?

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The ‘Golden Years’ are not always golden. A recent study conducted at the University of Waterloo investigated the prevalence of depression among older adults admitted to long-term care or nursing homes in Ontario, and it reveals some startling statistics.1 Three months after admission, depressive symptoms increased from 54.3 cases per 100 to 60.8 cases. Depression continues to be under-diagnosed and undertreated and is taking a toll on residents’ quality of life, care costs, and staff turnover. Depression is usually linked with other chronic conditions, and this new research highlights the numbers of those affected, making this a significant issue of concern.

Even though the quality and effectiveness of physical care continues to improve, the effectiveness of psychosocial care continues to be an issue. Although treatment is available for depression, the current rates continue to be unacceptably high. Young (2013), writes that non-pharmacological treatments should be provided for mild to moderate depressive symptoms, and combined with pharmacological therapy for moderate to severe symptoms.2 But, there is stigma associated with depression and therapy, and those that need help the most, especially older adults, are often unable to ask for it. Non-pharmacological treatments therefore, need to come in an easily accessible format, i.e. in a socially comfortable and acceptable way. Emerging research indicates that mutual support groups, for example, are a promising non-pharmacological treatment for depression.3


1 Neufeld, E., Freeman, S., Joling, K., & Hirdes, J. P. (2014). “When the golden years are blue”: Changes in depressive symptoms over time among new admitted to long term care facilities. Clinical Gerontologist, In press. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2014.885919

2 Young, N. (2013). Non-pharmacological treatment for patients with depression. Nursing Standard, 28(7), 43-51.

3 Theurer, K., Wister, A., Sixsmith, A., Chaudhury, H., & Lovegreen, L. (In press). The development and evaluation of mutual support groups in long-term care homes. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 1-29. doi: 10.1177/0733464812446866

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