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Posted: November 16th, 2022

Geriatric Therapy

Geriatric Therapy: How to Help Older Adults With Depression
What Is Geriatric Therapy?
Geriatrics is “a branch of medicine that deals with the problems and diseases of old age and the medical care and treatment of aging” (Geriatric, n.d). (Geriatric, n.d.).

Geriatric mental health therapy is focused on the psychological and emotional needs of individuals over the age of 60. Geriatric mental health is a burgeoning area in need of attention, as nearly one out of five elderly Americans experience at least one mental health disorder (Institute of Medicine, 2012). (Institute of Medicine, 2012).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2017), around 15% of the geriatric population worldwide has a mental health disorder.

The high rates of psychological problems among older people are related to declining health and mobility, cognitive impairment, financial stress, chronic pain, elder abuse, and loneliness (WHO, 2017). (WHO, 2017).

The outcomes of these risk mechanisms are disproportionate rates of depression, anxiety, and substance use issues among the elderly (WHO, 2017). (WHO, 2017). And since adequate mental health treatment is less likely among older people with psychiatric problems (Bartels, 2002), accessing and treating mental health issues among geriatric populations is of immediate importance.

Fortunately, there are various effective approaches to treat mental health disorders among the elderly.

How to Help Older Adults With Depression
Helping older people
Depression represents one of the most prevalent and serious mental health issues faced by the elderly.

For example, in a study examining the prevalence of depression among seniors, Djernes (2006) reported the following:

In private households, rates of depression were between 0.9% and 9.4%
In institutional settings, rates of depression were between 14% and 42%
Predictors of geriatric depression included lack of social contacts, somatic illness, functional impairment, cognitive impairment, female gender, and history of depression (Djernes, 2006). (Djernes, 2006).

In a related study, significant risk factors for geriatric depression included poor self-rated health status and chronic disease (Chang-Quan et al., 2010). (Chang-Quan et al., 2010).

Clearly, treatment approaches and lifestyle choices aimed at reducing depression among the elderly are needed.

Meta-analyses show a paucity of research focused on the impact of psychotherapy for the treatment of depression among the aged, but also suggest that treatment approaches aimed at enhancing illness management, quality of life, and daily living activities represent key target areas for geriatric mental healthcare (Mackin & Areán, 2005).

9 Therapy Intervention Ideas
Empirical research supports the efficacy of multiple types of mental health therapy among older people. Here are nine examples:

1. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) (IPT)
This therapeutic approach is a short-term, structured process in which the practitioner and client work on identifying the client’s underlying problems and developing effective coping strategies.

Interpersonal Therapy, which has been found effective to treat depression, is implemented in the following three phases (Miller, 2008):

Exploration of the client’s difficulties and how they are affecting them
Identification of positive coping strategies and ongoing review of how they are working during treatment
Consolidation of the benefits of the client’s new coping strategies and preparation for the client to continue using them following treatment
Unfortunately, there is a lack of scientific studies specifically investigating the effects of IPT on older individuals, with most research only addressing IPT combined with medication (Mackin & Areán, 2005).

Of the few studies specifically addressing IPT, preliminary findings suggest that IPT may be a highly promising approach for older clients suffering from suicidal ideation and depression (Heisel, Duberstein, Talbot, King, & Tu, 2009). (Heisel, Duberstein, Talbot, King, & Tu, 2009).

Similarly, according to their extensive literature review, Bartels et al. (2004) found that IPT was effective specifically for the treatment of depression among older individuals.

Additionally, based on his comprehensive review, Miller (2008) posits that IPT is easily adaptable to older populations and may be especially useful for grief management and the development of coping skills for the transition to long-term care.

IPT also represents a potentially effective add-on treatment component for individuals receiving pharmaceutical therapy (Miller, 2008). (Miller, 2008).

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) (CBT)
CBT is based on the assumption that “emotional disorders are maintained by cognitive factors, and that psychological treatment leads to changes in these factors through cognitive and behavioral techniques” (Hofmann & Smits, 2008, p. 621). (Hofmann & Smits, 2008, p. 621).

This approach addresses both behavioral and cognitive influences on an individual’s emotions in a particular situation. Bartels et al. (2004) suggest that CBT represents an effective treatment for depression among older clients.

Likewise, Holland, Chong, Currier, O’Hara, and Gallagher-Thompson (2015) investigated CBT as a way of promoting meaning among individuals with geriatric depression. The researchers found that CBT was effective in fostering enhanced positive world views, values, and purpose in life among participants with higher education.

3. Exercise training
Staying physically active is essential for older populations, as it fosters emotional wellbeing, physical health, and longevity. Exercise training is also important for preventing injury.

Hauer et al. (2001) examined the impact of a three-month exercise program aimed at improving strength, mobility, and balance among geriatric participants with a history of falls.

The results showed that exercise was linked to increased functional motor performance, strength, and balance – effects that continued at three-month follow-up (Hauer et al., 2001). (Hauer et al., 2001).

Along these lines, in a literature review examining randomized controlled trials focused on exercise treatments among the elderly, exercise was found to represent a beneficial approach for treating depression among this population (Sjösten & Kivelä, 2006).

4. Occupational Therapy (OT) (OT)
OT is an approach that involves “the use of purposeful activity or intervention designed to achieve functional outcomes which promote health, prevent injury or disability and which develop, improve, sustain or restore the highest possible level of independence” (Punwar & Peloquin, 2000, p. 5). (Punwar & Peloquin, 2000, p. 5).

Research has supported the efficacy of OT among older individuals. For example, according to a systematic review of OT approaches among patients in acute geriatric wards, several studies reported higher degrees of functionality in terms of daily living skills (Cuevas-Lara et al., 2019). (Cuevas-Lara et al., 2019).

5. Animal-Assisted Therapy
Pets have an amazing way of calming anxiety and promoting compassion and tenderness.

Many older people enjoy cats, dogs and other pets without realizing the many ways in which their non-human pals enhance emotional wellbeing. This idea is borne out in the substantive research.

For example, Vrbanac et al. (2013) examined the impact of dog companionship among geriatric nursing home residents. The authors found that participation in the program was associated with reductions in loneliness.

Overall, having a pet is a fun way for older individuals who are fond of animals to greatly improve their own quality of life, as well as that of their furry companion.

6. Music Therapy (MT) (MT)
A person need not possess any musical talent to enjoy the benefits of music. For example, Okada et al. (2009) examined the impact of Music Therapy among elderly participants with dementia and cerebrovascular disease.

The treatment group received MT once a week over 10 times. Patients in the MT group experienced increased parasympathetic activity and reduced congestive heart failure events, which are the most common cause of death among seniors (Okada et al., 2009). (Okada et al., 2009).

Similarly, in a randomized controlled trial, institutionalized geriatric patients with mild depression underwent a group singing intervention. Those who received the intervention showed significantly lower depression and loneliness than controls after three weeks (Mathew, Sundar, Subramaniam, & Parmar, 2016). (Mathew, Sundar, Subramaniam, & Parmar, 2016).

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