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Depression in dementia more common in those living at home

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Dementia patients residing in long-term care homes are less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms than those living in the community, according to study findings.

Researchers from University of Manchester found 37% of people living in the community showed signs of depression compared to 23% of those in care homes. 

It is one of the few studies comparing similar groups of people living at home and in nursing homes.

“What we need is more support for carers to help them cope with their relatives’ depressive symptoms and to recognise the problem before it gets to severe levels”

David Challis

The study looked at 414 people with severe dementia and their carers in eight EU countries – England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. 

The study gathered information on quality of life, activities of daily living such as bathing, feeding and dressing and presence of depressive symptoms using standardised measures.

Lead author Professor David Challis, from the university’s personal social services research unit, said: “Despite the differences between the countries involved, the pattern of depression observed in the community-dwelling group was consistent.

“This difference may be partly explained by the responses received from carers,” he said. “Often, relatives of people with dementia are more distressed by symptoms of depression than professional care workers, so this may have influenced their ratings on the depression measure.”

He added: “What we need is more support for carers to help them cope with their relatives’ depressive symptoms and to recognise the problem before it gets to severe levels.”

Overall, Finland (15%) and the Netherlands (21%) had the lowest rates of depression in people with severe dementia, compared to 23% overall.

The study also looked at the rates of anti-depressant prescribing across the different countries.  It found that England and Spain had the highest rates, while Germany had the lowest.

The findings were published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

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