The British Geriatrics Society and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have published a new report on effective interdisciplinary collaboration and practice in treating depression in older people living in care homes.

Geriatricians and old age psychiatrists work with older people with depression on a daily basis and share a concern about the significant levels of this condition among those older people who live in care homes. Depression is the most common mental health problem of later life, affecting 10-20% of older people and up to 40% of care home residents. Older people in residential and nursing homes are two to three times more likely to experience depression than older people in the community.

The aim of the ‘Depression among older people living in care homes’ report is to explore the ways in which geriatricians, old age psychiatrists and allied health professionals, are working together to overcome the specific challenges that arise when treating depression in older people living in this community.

Key themes of the report include the importance of providing patient centred care, the benefits of multidisciplinary team meetings being attended by both geriatricians and old age psychiatrists, and the value of staff in care homes developing the skills to identify depression in the people they care for. The report also addresses voluntary and community sector involvement and funding sources.

The report highlights eight good practice examples from across the country, ranging from multi-site initiatives to pilot models. Examples include:

  • Multidisciplinary care home and community liaison model - Poole, Dorset has developed a ‘liaison model’ which brings together expertise from the community mental health team, primary care, social workers, and the community physical health team, which includes GPs, practice and district nurses, a speech and language therapist and care home staff
  • Gateshead Care Home Initiative promotes the value of meaningful activities and interactions, including exercise-based activities, which are linked with significant improvements in mood
  • Nazareth House, West London Mental Health Trust where experienced mental health nurses provide training for senior care home staff to help identify mental health issues among the residents 

Dr Amanda Thompsell, Chair of the Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “We welcome this report, too many people living in care homes with a treatable depression that goes unnoticed.  No-one living in a care home should have to go without treatment for a for any mental health issue. This report demonstrates the value of a collaborative approach. We will be engaging with the people who can make change happen to focus attention on this area and this report is a first step to dealing with this issue”

President of the British Geriatrics Society, Dr Eileen Burns said: “The examples show a diverse mix of practice across a wide range of settings. What they consistently demonstrate is the value of a person-centred approach to treating depression in older people who live in care homes, and the benefits of a collaborative team-based approach to sharing expertise. We need to overcome any barriers that exist to make sure that older people have access to high quality treatment across all health and care settings.”

Download the report Depression among older people living in care homes report 2018.pdf