Navigating Geriatric Depression: Guide for Nursing Homes

When working with the vintage population, especially individuals with dementia, you often will see signs of geriatric depression. Below is a guide to navigating geriatric depression and creating a positive environment that is supportive to individuals dealing with depressive symptoms. 


Start by ruling out medical conditions...

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-V), we are required to rule out medical conditions before diagnosing a mental condition; medical conditions can cause/exacerbate mental conditions and vice versa.

From a clinician’s standpoint, refer your resident to a physician first for a full physical with a blood work-up and urinalysis.


Screening Residents for Signs & Symptoms

Some of these you may be able to screen and notice on your own but others you may need to refer the resident to a physician for a diagnosis. 


Screen for Common Health Issues that Affect Mood

  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Other nutritional deficiencies
  • Thyroid problems
  • Glucose deficiency or abundance
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency


Screen for Associated Chronic Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions can cause/exacerbate a chemical imbalance in the brain and/or emotional response to a diagnosis.

  • Heart disease/attack
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes


Medication-Induced Depression

  • Steroid
  • Pain medications
  • Hormone medications
  • Arthritis medications
  • Tranquilizers
  • Cancer drug medications
  • High-blood pressure drug medications
  • Heart disease medications


Besides screening, providing an overall healthy and conducive environment for residents is essential to reducing their risk of geriatric depression.


Ways to Create a Positive Environment

Support Groups

  • Working with a population that often deals with loss, it’s important to offer support groups to help alleviate loneliness and increase the validation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

Healthy Lifestyle

  • Encourage a healthy diet through gardening and a nutrient-dense menu
  • Provide exercise opportunities with a variety of movement activities

Increase Social Interactions

  • Encourage friends and family to visit regularly
  • Schedule structured social activities 

Spiritual Renewal

  • Offer religious services to help increase spiritual connection

Sensory Stimulation

  • Provide aromatherapy 
  • Offer pet companions
  • Design tactile stimulation activities


For additional support or ideas on creating positive environments, reach out to us for a free 15 consultation. 


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