The Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression at Emory University School of Medicine is partnering with the Community Care Services Program (CCSP) of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Aging to train care coordinators and nurses to recognize symptoms of depression in older adults.
The CCSP provides Georgians who are eligible for nursing home care an option to remain in their homes, surrounded by their community support network, by providing home-based senior support services. Many of the CCSP recipients are at high risk for depression because of their multiple and chronic medical illnesses. Depression exacerbates the severity of many medical conditions, and prevents many seniors from living independently. When independence is threatened, hopelessness often occurs.
"One-in-four older adults exhibits symptoms of depression," says William McDonald, MD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Fuqua Center for Late Life Depression. "For many of them, depression is a life-threatening illness. In the United States, older adults make up 20 percent of all suicides, while they represent only 13 percent of the population."
Signs of depression are often missed or misunderstood, and never brought to the attention of a patient's clinician. Emory faculty are teaching CCSP care coordinators how to recognize the signs of depression, how to monitor treatment efficacy, and encourage the seniors under their care to seek treatment. Once the trained CCSP care coordinators determine that a patient may have depression, they share that information with the senior's doctor for evaluation and treatment. The care coordinators work with the clinicians to help guide patients to the appropriate resources for care. "Clinical depression robs older adults of their quality of life," says Dr. McDonald. "The Fuqua Center's goal is to reach out to as many elderly people in the region as possible. Working with the CCSP has given us an opportunity to identify hundreds of people who need help, and to get them on the path to recovery so they can return to a relatively normal life."
The seeds of the CCSP - Fuqua partnership are in an earlier pilot project funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and implemented in the metro Atlanta Community Care Program. The program proved successful in increasing the number of persons receiving treatment for depression and preventing attempts at suicide. The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Aging Community Care Program and the Fuqua Center are committed to providing a successful program throughout the entire state of Georgia.