As the population of baby boomers and older adults grows, there has been a heightened awareness of the need for better diagnosis and treatment of depression in seniors. Fortunately, healthcare providers and medical facilities are now better educated on the issue and have improved service delivery. Private insurance companies have also responded by offering more covered mental health services.
Although encouraging, the issue of untreated depression in older adults remains a serious concern, particularly for those in community-based settings without good access to care, such as subsidized housing for lower-income seniors. But that gap is being addressed as reported in an article on LeadingEdge.org about a new community treatment protocol.
The article explains how 12 community-based teams in Georgia developed health-service delivery strategies to low-income seniors in their communities needing care for mental health issues. Utilizing a new program called “Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives for Seniors, (PEARLS), staff trained in PEARLS became community counselors, reaching out to help older adults with mental health concerns.
Teaching seniors problem-solving techniques and using behavioral interventions has been shown to reduce depression and help seniors have a better quality of life. By working closely with a supervising psychiatrist, the counselors review the seniors’ cases and are encouraged to work with a client’s primary care doctor for more treatment services for depression.
How PEARLS Works
The PEARLS program was developed at the University of Washington School of Medicine and was tested on 138 subjects 60 years and older. They were evaluated for depression and quality of life. Over half were found to have mild depression and the rest, more serious depression. During participation in PEARLS for 12 months, those participating had a 50% or greater reduction of depressive symptoms, generally have lower rates of hospitalization and reported better emotional well-being.