A recent study has shed new light on the frequency of depression among nursing home patients. The study – which involved 272 elderly patients with an average age of 81— looked at how often those patients reported feeling depressed and were prescribed antidepressants at both a long-term care facility and through a home-care agency. The research revealed that patients in a nursing home setting are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants and to self-report depression as compared to those patients being treated in a home-health care setting. Jodi Shapuras and Lindsay Egan, undergraduate students in the social work program at ISU, conducted the research at their internships as part of a senior-level field practicum class. Shapuras and Egan said they weren’t surprised by their findings.
“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 in those who need some level of outside care,” said Shapuras of Mitchell, Indiana. “As social workers, it is important to understand the mental health issues, such as depression, within the different care settings. We actually hypothesized that the long-term care patients would utilize antidepressants more and would self-report depression more,” said Egan of Terre Haute, Indiana. “When an individual moves to a long-term care facility, they undergo a tremendous amount of changes. They are 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.”
At the long-term care facility, 30 percent of the elders in the study reported feeling depressed, versus 11 percent who received care in their homes through medical and social services. The study also found that the long-term care facility prescribed antidepressants to over half of the elders in the study—62 percent—at some point following admission, compared to only a quarter of the home-cared elders.
Shapuras added that in the home-care setting, elders are still residing within a familiar environment. “They are 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 these tasks,” Shapuras said.
Shapuras and Egan presented the findings of their study entitled, “Comparison of Depression in Elders Who Receive Home-Health Care to Elders Residing in a Long-Term Care Facility,” at ISU’s 12th annual Undergraduate and Graduate Research Showcase. The women received first place in the undergraduate oral presentation division.
Shapuras and Egan are hoping their findings will bring attention to the issue of depression in elderly patients who require care to the extent to which antidepressants are prescribed in long-term care settings. “I would like to see more effective alternative treatments researched, as opposed to what seems in many cases to be the automatic prescribing an antidepressants,” Egan said.
Shapuras said she would also like to see more research conducted in this area. “It seems as though medications are sometimes viewed as the ‘fix-all’ when depression becomes apparent,” she said. “I hope to work in the field of gerontology as a social worker and to make some positive changes somewhere along the line.”