May is National Mental Health Month and Turenne PharMedCo Pharmacy Services joins the nation in recognizing mental illness, such as depression, and the hope of recovery. Nursing homes are slowly returning to normal operations after nearly two years of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. However, the effects of the enforced isolation and stress of the ongoing pandemic have had a lasting impact on residents. So, what can facilities do to support their residents’ health as the pandemic continues?
Depression is common
Mental health is essential to supporting overall health and well-being. Mental illness complicates the treatment of physical ailments and conditions and threatens the ability of residents to thrive in their environment. Unable to have visits from loved ones and participate in regular social engagement, residents suffered from increased loneliness, depression and other mental health challenges. Additionally, research has shown that nursing home staff experienced symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), low mood and anxiety during the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, depression was one of the most common and serious illnesses that residents experienced. According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of nursing home residents had symptoms of depression. This is especially true of older people in long-term care who may have been experiencing a number of stressors such as chronic pain, mobility issues, loss of strength and chronic illness. Additionally, older people are more likely to experience life changes that can lead to depression such as the loss of loved ones and friends, reductions in socioeconomic status and loss of independence.
Related to increased risk
Depression is related to functional declines and increased risk of death in older people. However, depression is one of the most successfully treated illnesses, according to a 2008 report on the state of mental health and aging by the CDC. There are several effective treatments for older adults, including antidepressant medications. Recognizing the signs of depression in residents is the first step to helping them get treatment, which can make a real difference in their quality of life. Symptoms of depression can include:
- Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or pessimism
- Having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Increased worry or feeling stressed
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level or appetite
- Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
- Ongoing headaches, digestive issues or pain
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with family or social life
- Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people
Antidepressants can be highly effective in treating depression. Antidepressants are also used for other health conditions, such as anxiety, pain and insomnia. Some symptoms usually begin to improve within two weeks, but the medications must be taken over several weeks to fully work. Studies have shown that depression is best treated using a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes.
Psychosocial interventions can be beneficial in not only helping to relieve the symptoms of depression, but in strengthening coping techniques and promoting healthy behavior. Psychosocial interventions can include talk therapy, exercise activities, pet therapy, music and therapeutic recreation. Therapeutic interventions are important for providing social interactions and pleasurable experiences for older adults, which can give them a sense of fulfillment and happiness as well as improve their quality of life.
Let us help
Turenne PharMedCo Pharmacy Services and our regulatory resource partner, The Compliance Store, have a wealth of expertise dedicated to mental health, appropriate medications for older adults, medication reviews, training information and regulatory guidance. For more information about our website or services, contact us online or by calling us at 877-582-7347.