Antidepressants Should Not Be Used as the Only Treatment for Depressive Symptoms of Nursing Home Residents

A recent study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association that explored whether the effects of depressive symptoms and antidepressant use at baseline predicted the subsequent decline in physical capability and number of hospitalizations in nursing home residents in Hong Kong. A supplement purpose was to understand the role of antidepressant use in preventing ADL (activities of daily living) decline and decreasing use of medical services. The study’s findings showed negative impact of depressive symptoms and indicated an important role of antidepressant use in altering the trajectory of physical recession.

The study’s findings revealed that the presence of any depressive symptom contributed to a faster subsequent physical recession in later years even when no significant connection was observed at baseline. The result successfully proved that, although significant association is unable to be directly observed between depressive symptoms and ADL performance, a quicker physical decline is observed among older adults with depressive symptoms, especially when left untreated.

In regards to antidepressant use, the study showed that antidepressant use was highly influential in slowing down subsequent physical decline. However, more thorough studies are needed in order to determine whether antidepressants should be widely recommended to nursing home residents with depressive symptoms.

Researchers of the study say that although many forms of treatment, such as formal psychotherapy, have been shown to be effective in treating depression, the primary treatment is antidepressant therapy, especially within nursing home settings. Thus, it is crucial that a systematic intervention protocol for older adults with depression is developed in residential care facilities. This systematic protocol should consider using both pharmacological treatment with stimulation and support of patients to get involved in recreational activities, as proven to be successful in residential care settings from a previous study. Although proven to be beneficial in some areas, antidepressants alone are not the ultimate solution.