Depression is not a normal part of ageing; it is a serious medical illness that negatively affects a person’s feelings, thinking, behaviour and physical state.
Although many older people in hospital have depression, it is often not recognised or responded to. Untreated depression can slow recovery and increase the risk of an older person experiencing problems with medication management, under-nutrition and reduced mobility and self-care while in hospital and on discharge.
Most older people in hospital who have mild depression will respond to simple practical interventions such as listening, explaining and reassuring.
This topic gives an overview of depression, its causes, symptoms and interventions. In addition to following health service policy and procedures, consider the following actions and discuss them with colleagues and managers.
Depression is a serious condition
Depression is a serious illness that impairs a person’s ability to function and causes significant distress for them and their family.
Depression and ageing
Given two-thirds of older people in hospital have been found to have a mild depression there is much we can do to improve their experience and outcomes.
Identifying depression – screening and assessment
As mild depression is common amongst older people in hospital, it is essential to conduct a screen on admission or as soon as the patient’s acute condition has stabilised.
Preventing and managing depression
We can use various strategies to improve an older person’s outcomes in hospital, contribute to their recovery and prevent the risk of functional decline.
Depression and discharge planning
The discharge plan promotes continued improvement in a person’s mental health through a range of strategies.
Further information - depression
Educational and information resources available on improving care for older people with depression in hospital.
All public and private hospitals are required to be accredited to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s (ACSQHC) National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. The primary aims of the standards are to protect the public from harm and to improve the quality of health service provision. Assessment to the second edition of the NSQHS Standards commenced in January 2019. The second edition comprises eight standards that provide a nationally consistent statement about the level of care consumers can expect from health services.
The Comprehensive Care Standard (Standard 5) aims to ensure that patients receive comprehensive health care that meets their individual needs, and considers the impact of their health issues on their life and wellbeing. It also aims to ensure that risks of harm for patients during health care are prevented and managed through targeted strategies. These include integrating patient care processes to identify patient needs and identifying actions related to falls, pressure injuries, nutrition, mental health, cognitive impairment and end-of-life care.
Information is presented in the Older People in Hospital learning topics that complements Standard 5 and other NSQHS Standards including the; Partnering with Consumers Standard (Standard 2), Medication Safety Standard (Standard 4), Communicating for Safety Standard (Standard 6) and Recognising and Responding to Acute Deterioration (Standard 8).
Reviewed 05 October 2015