Depression remains largely undiagnosed

A Melbourne study finds that close to 50 per cent of cases of clinical depression in aged care facilities are not detected by staff.

Melbourne’s Deakin University has written a training program to help staff in nursing homes respond to depression.

The course was developed after a study by researchers from the university’s School of Psychology found that close to half of the clinical depression experienced by aged care residents goes undiagnosed.

In the study, about 17 per cent of low care residents with mild or moderate cognitive impairment suffered clinical depression but fewer than half of these cases had been detected or treated.

“This means that many people are leading a fairly miserable existence within the nursing home system,” said Deakin Professor of Psychology, Marita McCabe.

“If they have undiagnosed depression they are more likely to withdraw and are more likely to experience physical symptoms such as disrupted sleep and appetite.”

Professor McCabe criticised the common misconception that depression is a ‘normal’ part of ageing.

“Just because a person is getting older and they are in a nursing home, doesn’t mean they are going to be depressed.”

Professor McCabe said the new course, which is currently being implemented at a number of Melbourne nursing homes, will help improve the identification of depression and provide strategies for dealing with it.

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