Depression among the elderly often goes untreated, and suicidal thoughts can go unchecked. A study suggests that adding a trained depression care manager to the care provided by a family doctor may help patients receive better, more successful treatment.

Researchers identified 599 older adults with major or minor depression and assigned them to standard care or a more intense intervention. Participants in the intervention group were assigned a care manager (such as a social worker, nurse, or psychologist) who helped the doctor provide treatment according to standard guidelines, monitored symptoms and side effects, and helped ensure adherence to treatment.

After two years, more than 84 percent of the intervention group had received treatment for depression, compared with only 49 to 62 percent of the standard-care group. Thirty-five percent more participants in the intervention group had responded than in the standard-care group. And the decline in suicidal thoughts was two times greater in the intervention group than in the standard group.

Previous studies had shown that care management provided a benefit for one-year, but this is the first to suggest that longer care can be beneficial. A longer-term intervention may be ideal, since depression in old age can be a chronic or relapsing condition.

Source: American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 166, page 882, August 2009

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 20 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013