Category:
Mental Health

Depression: Assessment and Treatment for Older Adult

Click here for printable PDF Tool

1. IS MY PATIENT AT RISK FOR DEPRESSION?

National Guidelines for Seniors Mental Health: Part 2: 2.1.1

PREDISPOSING FACTORS

  • Female
  • Widowed or divorced
  • Previous depression history
  • Brain changes due to vascular problems
  • Major physical and chronic disabling illnesses
  • Medications or Polypharmacy
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Social disadvantage & low social support
  • Caregiver for person with a major disease (e.g.,dementia)
  • Personality type (e.g., relationship or dependence problems)

PRECIPITATING FACTORS

  • Recent bereavement
  • Move from home to other places (e.g., nursing home)
  • Adverse life events (e.g., losses, separation, financial crisis)
  • Chronic stress with declining health, family or marital problems
  • Social isolation
  • Persistent sleep difficulties

2. RECOMMENDED ASSESSMENT OPTIONS

National Guidelines for Seniors Mental Health: Part 2: 2.1.2

A structured interview using one of the following tools:

TOOLS DEVELOPED TO REFLECT DEPRESSION IN OLDER ADULTS

In general medical practice, nursing/residential homes or inpatient settings

In community surveys

  • Center for Epidemiological Studies – Depression Scale
  • The Geriatric Mental State Schedule (GMSS)

For depression in the presence of dementia or significant cognitive difficulties

  • The Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia (http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/departments/fuqua/CornellScale.pdf )

3. DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA

National Guidelines for Seniors Mental Health: Part 2: 2.2

DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR DEPRESSION - DSM IV

A cluster of symptoms present on most days, most of the time, for at least 2 weeks

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal, previously enjoyed activities
  • Decreased energy and increased fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Appetite change (i.e., usually loss of appetite in the elderly)
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Suicidal ideation or recurrent thoughts of death

DSM IV-TR CLASSIFICATION (APA, 2000)

Make a clear DSM-IV diagnosis & document

Different types of depressive disorders

  • Major depressive episodes (i.e., part of unipolar, bipolar mood disorder or secondary to a medical condition)
  • Dysthymic disorder
  • Depressive disorders not otherwise specified: A group of disorders including minor depressive disorder, post psychotic depressive disorder of schizophrenia and depressive disorders of unclear etiology (e.g., may be primary or secondary to  medical condition or substance induced)

4. WHEN TO TREAT

National Guidelines for Seniors Mental Health: Part 2: 2.1.1

Following a positive screen for depression a complete bio-psycho-social assessment should be conducted including:

  • A review of diagnostic criteria in the DSM IV-TR or ICD 10 manuals
  • An estimate of severity, including presence of psychotic or catatonic symptoms
  • Risk of suicide, by directly asking patients about suicidal ideation, intent and plan
  • Personal or family history of mood disorder
  • Medication use and substance abuse
  • Review of current stressors and life situation
  • Level of functioning/disability
  • Family situation, social integration/support
  • Mental status exam, plus assessment of cognitive function
  • Physical exam and lab tests to determine if medical issues contribute or mimic depressive symptoms

Treatment can be divided into 3 main phases

  • Acute treatment phase: to achieve remission of symptoms
  • Continuation phase: to prevent recurrence or relapse of same episode of illness
  • Maintenance or prophylaxis phase: to prevent future episodes or recurrence

5. GUIDELINES FOR TREATMENT

National Guidelines for Seniors Mental Health: Part 4 & 5

Psychotherapies & Psychosocial Interventions

  • Supportive care should be offered to all patients who are depressed
  • Psychotherapy is a first line of treatment or in combination with antidepressant medication
  • Based on type of depression, coping style, level of cognitive functioning
  • Psychotherapy – provided by trained mental health professionals

Pharmacological Treatment

  • Medications are used in combination with psycho social or psychotherapy treatments
  • Part of overall treatment of depressed older adults
  • See table for commonly used antidepressants
  • See full guideline for details of prescribing and monitoring

6. WHEN TO REFER

National Guidelines for Seniors Mental Health: Part 3: 3.5

Recommendations for clinicians to refer for Psychiatric Care at Time of Diagnosis

  • Psychotic depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression with suicidal ideation

7. MONITORING AND LONG TERM TREATEMENT

National Guidelines for Seniors Mental Health: Part 6: 3

Health care providers should monitor the older adult for re-occurrence of depression for the first 2 years after treatment

  • Ongoing monitoring should focus on depressive symptoms present during initial episode Older adults in remission of their first episode should be treated for a minimum of one year and up to 2 years from time of improvement
  • Older adults with recurrent episodes should receive indefinite maintenance therapy
  • In LTC homes, response to therapy should be evaluated monthly after initial improvement and then every three months, as well as annual

Disclaimer: This tool is intended for information purposes only and is not intended to be interpreted or used as a standard of medical/health practice.

Based on: National Guidelines for Seniors’ Mental Health: the Assessment and Treatment of Depression
Available on line: https://ccsmh.ca/

You should not rely on this pocket tool for financial or legal advice. It provides general information only. NICE is not responsible for any use of the information other than for general educational/informational purposes and no claim can be made against NICE or any of its personnel for any such use.
National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE)
246 Bloor Street West, Room 234
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V4, Canada