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To gain new insight into support for older people with low mood, the perceptions, strategies, and needs of older people with depressive symptoms were explored.
Two in-depth interviews were held with 38 participants (aged ≥77 years) who screened positive for depressive symptoms in general practice. To investigate the influence of the presence of complex health problems, 19 persons with and 19 without complex problems were included. Complex problems were defined as a combination of functional, somatic, psychological or social problems.
All participants used several cognitive, social or practical coping strategies. Four patterns emerged: mastery, acceptance, ambivalence, and need for support. Most participants felt they could deal with their feelings sufficiently, whereas a few participants with complex problems expressed a need for professional support. Some participants, especially those with complex problems, were ambivalent about possible interventions mainly because they feared putting their fragile balance at risk due to changes instigated by an intervention.
Most older participants with depressive symptoms perceived their coping strategies to be sufficient. The general practitioners (GPs) can support self-management by talking about the (effectiveness of) personal coping strategies, elaborating on perceptions of risks, providing information, and discussing alternative options with older persons.
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