Depression in the Chronically Ill Elderly Patient

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Of the total population of the United States, 39 million are 65 and older. Of those 39 million older adults, about 5% reside in nursing homes, with the median age of 83.2 years (Urdaneta & Thakur, 2010). It is estimated that by the year 2030, 20% of the nation’s population will be 65 and older (Glaister & Blair, 2008). With the number of older adults rising significantly, so will the number residing in nursing homes. A significant amount of older adults will experience depression. Depression is prevalent in older adults, and those residing in nursing homes seem to be at greater risk for developing it (Urdaneta & Thakur, 2010). It is also estimated that the number of older adults experiencing depression is three to five times that of older adults residing in the community (Glaister & Blair, 2008). The need for recognition and proper treatment of depression will be great. With nurses on the frontlines of patient care and communication, it is essential that they be fully educated about proper assessment and treatment of depression.

Studies found that depression rates among nursing home residents ranged from 9 to 75% (Choi, Ransom, &Wyllie, 2008). Depression is a broad term that encompasses many diagnoses, of which include: major depressive disorder, psychotic depression, dysthymia, minor depression, bereavement, adjustment disorder with depressed mood, and depression secondary to general medical condition. Social, psychological, vascular, neurotransmission, endocrine, and genetic factors all contribute to the development of depression (Urdaneta & Thakur, 2010). It most often occurs alongside a chronic illness, the greatest of which being dementia.

Depression can have both physical and psychological effects on the patient, family, and caregiver. It contributes to the deterioration of functional health, as well as to the decline in overall quality of life of the patient (Choi, Ransom, &Wyllie, 2008). Symptoms of depression may vary. Feelings of sadness,...
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