Depression Defense: Sick Elderly Get Mood Aid from Home Treatment

By Bower, B. | Science News, August 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

Depression Defense: Sick Elderly Get Mood Aid from Home Treatment


Bower, B., Science News


Brief instructional sessions delivered by a nurse or psychologist show promise as a way to prevent depression in elderly people with serious health problems, at least in the short run.

As the U.S. population ages, such treatment--which focuses on finding ways for people to continue daily activities and achieve goals despite physical ailments--will attract increasing interest, say psychiatrist Barry W. Rovner of Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscienee in Philadelphia and his colleagues.

Rovner's group studied 206 patients, all in their 70s or 80s, with preexisting macular degeneration in one eye and newly diagnosed macular degeneration in the other eye, an indicator of impending blindness.

Macular degeneration, characterized by deterioration of part of the retina, affects nearly 10 million people. It's the most common cause of legal blindness in the United States.

In a prior study, Rovner and his co-workers found that almost 30 percent of patients with macular degeneration in one eye became depressed soon after their other eye became affected.

In the new investigation, participants randomly received either sessions known as problem-solving treatment or standard follow-up medical care. In the former plan, a nurse or a psychologist visited volunteers' homes six times over 8 weeks to tailor an approach for patients to cope with blindness.

Two months after the study began, 12 percent of patients receiving problem-solving treatment were depressed, compared with 23 percent of those getting standard care. Markedly fewer patients in the problem-solving group than in the standard-care group had given up activities that they valued, such as visiting friends. …

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