Most aged care residents depressed: study

A major study of aged care residents has found more than half have symptoms of depression.  

A major study of aged care residents has found more than half have symptoms of depression.

The study, using information gathered in aged care facilities across the country, shows the rates of depressive symptoms are slightly higher in residents from migrant and refugee communities.

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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has investigated the levels of depression among people living in aged care facilities between 2008 and 2012.

It found more than half had symptoms of depression while being admitted, and these generally continued.

Pamela Kinnear from the Institute says a number of factors can contribute to feelings of depression for new aged care residents.

"The kind of experience that people are having at that stage in their lives. They're usually at the challenging end of their life. People going into aged care facilities usually have a number of health problems that they're struggling with. they're also at the stage of life where they may have lost a spouse, have lost friends, they're moving away from family, they're moving from familiar to unfamiliar environments. It's a pretty challenging time of life. And I guess to some extent you would expect to see some of these sorts of trends, even though we don't like to see it."

The rates of moderate and major depressive symptoms were found to be slightly higher among migrant and refugee communities.

Hans Schmid is a project officer at the Migrant Resource Centre in Hobart.

He is not surprised that elderly residents from non-English speaking backgrounds are more likely to have symptoms of depression.

"You think about life differently and of course you left your home. You have been in the new country but you're torn between the two a little bit and quite often or in most cases, you don't have the extended family that we take for granted. Normally you would just drop in and you would visit your parents, you would visit your siblings and that sort of thing."

Dr Pamela Kinnear says the rates of depressive symptoms among people living in aged care facilities are higher than in the rest of the population

"Generally speaking the literature seems to indicate that depression is less prevalent amongst older people more generally. But I think that the important thing to understand is that the population going into residential aged care facilities is increasingly a frailer population than might have gone into aged care before. People are tending to get more care. People are tending to get more care in the community for longer periods of time now, so that at the point when they're actually entering an aged care facility or needing care through a facility like that, they've actually got much more complex needs."

However Hans Schmid says depression among his clients living at home and in retirement villages is common.

"Depression is definitely a big problem, there's no doubt about it, in and out, but seems to increase in nursing homes for many. Some of the reasons are that some of the people have a number of issues that even though the care is really good, but the safety is maybe a little bit overstressed that people really don't have a normal life as they used to when they're at home. For instance, most grandparents, even if they're later in their life they can still do some activities with the grandchildren for instance or they can cook or do all sorts of things like have a little veggie garden, everyday things that we do. But of course when they enter a nursing home, most of those choices are gone. "

Mr Schmid says many nursing homes restrict the activities of residents, stripping away any sense of independence.

"There was one particular nursing home where residents were taken to an RSL (The Returned and Services League) dance, but they weren't allowed to dance because they could have a fall. That's kind of things that we would do because we make our own choice, we feel like doing. At another one, the staff cooked some food with the residents but then they actually couldn't eat the food because it hadn't been certified so they literally had to discard it."

George Lekarkis is the Chief Executive Officer of Fonditha Care, which runs Greek nursing homes in Melbourne and New South Wales.

He says culture-specific aged care can help to address issues around depression.

"People can communicate. They can tell us what's worrying them. You don't need an interpreter. It can happen 24 hours a day. People can actually voice their views, they can tell you that they're not feeling very well. As I go around the nursing home, I talk to my residents, and they tell you things which they possibly couldn't communicate if they were to do it in another language. "

Source World News Australia

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