If a person reaches 100 years of age, they have a lot of living to reflect on from over the years—both good and bad. And sometimes nostalgia can lead to depression when life’s changes and limitations, including energy level and companionship, are not what the person remembers and desires from days gone by. And this can be especially challenging for caretakers as they are the ones dealing with the seniors’ depression.
Well a new study, recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, indicates that traditional depression screening methods may actually over diagnose depression in these older adults. And the study’s authors also conclude that “many seniors’ depressive symptoms can be treated effectively through encouraging engagement.”
The 411 on the Centenarian Depression Study
The study was performed at Iowa State University where 323 people were divided into three groups:
- Individuals over 60
- Individuals over 80
- Indivduals over 100
The individuals in the over 100 group scored higher for depression according to the standard Geriatric Depression Scale, despite the older seniors saying they were in “good spirits.” Through further deduction, the researchers discovered that some of the questions were misleading. For example, Those over 100 were likely to agree with statements that describe themselves as less active or energetic, or statements that have to do with physical impairments. But many of the over 100-year-olds did not agree with questions such as, “I am not satisfied with life,” or “I do not enjoy getting up in the morning.”
Gerontology researcher Peter Martin agrees that Centenarians will make statements like, “I’m not going to live much longer” because these statements are a true observation. While statements such as these are a good indicator of depression for a 20-something, they’re completely wrong for someone nearing the end of their life. The findings? Demographics and a variance of questions need to be considered for depression testing accuracy.
What This Means for Both Patient and Caregiver Wellness
Being comfortable, familiar and being able to read your loved one or patient is crucial to understand whether he or she is truly depressed. And if specific depression signs are there, there are positive steps to take to help the individual enjoy life again. According to Gerontology researchers, depressed centenarians need to find more meaning in their existence. “Allowing and encouraging the individual to contribute to his or her community or engaging the individual in activities he or she enjoys can do wonders for depressed seniors.” Martin adds, “Their life is not over yet. It’s the last chapter of the book, but sometimes the last chapter of the book has the most interesting stuff in it.”