Aggression, Incontinence Found to be Early Indicators of Depression in Elderly

Researchers at the University of Missouri have discovered a series of indicators, other than changes in mood, which are associated with the development of depression in nursing home residents, according to a study published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

“Many elderly people develop certain clinical characteristics at the same time they develop depression,” said Lorraine Phillips, assistant professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing. “Understanding these changes is essential to quickly and accurately diagnosing depression in nursing home residents.”

Changes in characteristics researchers found to be associated with the development of depression include increased verbal aggression, urinary incontinence, increased pain, weight loss, changes in care needs, reduced cognitive ability, and decline in performance of daily living activities.

Residents with increased verbal aggression were 69% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who had not shown these changes. Decreases in activities of daily living, such as feeding or dressing one’s self, also were associated with increased depression diagnosis. The research indicates that men and women in nursing homes are equally likely to develop depression.

Researchers analyzed data collected from the Missouri Minimum Data Set on more than 14,000 nursing home residents aged 65 and older who were not diagnosed with depression at the beginning of the study. Also analyzed were changes in various clinical factors, other than mood changes, to discover which changes were associated with the development of depression during a three-month interval of time.

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