Half of aged care residents depressed

More than half of permanent aged care residents show signs of depression, according to new figures.

More than half of permanent aged care residents have symptoms of depression and CALD residents show even higher rates of moderate or major depression, according to the most in-depth analysis to date.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released on Wednesday provides the most comprehensive picture of the prevalence and characteristics of people with depression in Australian residential aged care facilities.

Overall prevalence of depression (52 per cent) was significantly higher than previous estimates (35 per cent) and five times higher than current estimates in older people in the community.

Women were slightly more likely to present with symptoms of depression (53 per cent) than men (51 per cent) but among aged care residents with symptoms only two-thirds had a medical diagnosis or were seeking a diagnosis for depression.

The majority of people without a medical diagnosis had mild symptoms of depression and a lack of routine guidelines on referring residents for diagnosis may also be a factor.

Interestingly, the report also found that rates of depression symptoms declined with age despite research showing an association between dementia and depression.

This lower prevalence may be due to possible barriers to the identification of complex symptoms of depression in older residents or a shorter life expectancy for older people with mental illness.

Barriers to the identification of mild symptoms of depression were also identified among indigenous residents due to the limited cultural appropriateness of the screening tools used.

ACFI problems

According to the data, more than 1 in 10 or 12,900 newly-admitted residents with symptoms of depression had moderate or major symptoms but were categorised for funding purposes as having mild symptoms.

This pointed to insufficient capacity within ACFI to consider the care needs of people with depression.

Higher care needs

In addition to the large numbers, newly-admitted residents with symptoms of depression had higher care needs and were more likely to have verbal or physical behaviours.

According to the report, 73 per cent of new residents with symptoms of depression were classified as high care compared with 53 per cent of residents without symptoms.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on ageing, said the research showed the importance of addressing mental health as part of aged care services.

As part of the legislated Living Longer, Living Better reforms in June, the Australian Greens advocated for the inclusion of a separate mental health supplement but this was ultimately not agreed to by the major parties.

Senator Siewert said considering the widespread prevalence of depression in residential aged care, it was important that mental health was maintained as specific category for legislative review.

“This research demonstrates that depression is closely linked to an individual’s care needs. If we invest in better mental health support, we will also improve quality of life and reduce the pressure on staff,” she said.

For more information read the full report: Depression in residential aged care 2008-2012.

Tags: acfi, aihw, australian-greens, australian-institute-of-health-and-welfare, cald, depression, lllb, mental-health, residential-aged-care,

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