Background: This research concerns the prevalence and course of depression in newly admitted nursing home residents. We attempted to recruit consecutive admissions into the study, irrespective of cognitive status, enabling a comparison of the prevalence and course of depression experienced by cognitively intact residents and those exhibiting all levels of cognitive impairment.
Method: Depression was assessed at one month, three months and six months post-admission. The assessment of mood in this study entailed the conduct of a semi-structured clinical interview, which encompassed DSM-IV criteria and Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia (CSDD) items.
Results: Recruitment difficulties resulted in a sample of 51 newly admitted residents, drawn from six nursing homes located in Victoria, Australia. Of particular interest, throughout the duration of the study, only the cognitively impaired were diagnosed with major depression (MD). One month post-admission, 24% of the sample were diagnosed with MD, and a further 20% evidenced a non-major depressive disorder. At the second and third assessments, MD was observed in 14% and 15% of residents, respectively. For residents who completed all three assessments, there was no appreciable change in the proportion diagnosed with a depressive disorder, nor was there a change in the levels of depressive symptomatology.
Conclusion: Although subject to limitations, the current study indicated that clinical depression in nursing home facilities most often occurs in residents who also exhibit pronounced cognitive impairment. These depressions are unlikely to remit spontaneously. Accordingly, care staff and general practitioners must be trained in the identification of depression in dementia, and any interventions implemented in these facilities should be tailored to meet the unique needs of this group.