Antidepressants Should be Prescribed to Older Adults with Extreme Caution

Depression is a debilitating psychological illness that is prevalent in the older adult population living in long-term care settings. According to a report from the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA), older adult residents in long-term care are 3 to 4 times more likely to have depression compared to their community-dwelling counterparts.

Depression in late life has a significantly negative effect on adherence to medication, pain severity, weight loss, and mortality. Studies have found that depression also debilitates physical functioning, exacerbating disability later in life by heightening the risks of incident physical illness and maladaptive health behaviors. Far too often, residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are prescribed antidepressant drugs when they express depressive symptoms, without thorough investigation of their cause.

A recent study found that older adults who took antidepressants had a significantly higher risk of hospitalization compared to those who expressed depressive symptoms but did not take antidepressants. There must be better management of depression in nursing home and assisted living facility settings. Patients should not be prescribed antidepressant medication without extremely thorough investigation of their symptoms.