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Program Helps Depressed Seniors

A significant number of older Americans are depressed. Many don’t know it and therefore get no help. An innovative program is being tried here that uses existing community resources to identify and deal with depressive issues among seniors. Dr. Mark Kunik is a psychiatrist at the Debaky VA Medical Center and an associate professor at […]

A significant number of older Americans are depressed. Many don’t know it and therefore get no help. An innovative program is being tried here that uses existing community resources to identify and deal with depressive issues among seniors.

Dr. Mark Kunik is a psychiatrist at the Debaky VA Medical Center and an associate professor at the Baylor College of Medicine.

He says that’s because there are a number of barriers to getting care.

Dr. Kunik says at lot of older people simply don’t know they are depressed. They can have a several social, economic and health issues they are dealing with and may not realize the feelings of being overwhelmed may be depression.

There is also not enough money to start programs to help seniors deal with depressive issues. That’s where the innovative program called “Healthy Ideas” comes in. Ideas is an acronym for identifying depression, empowering activities for seniors. It piggy-backs ways to identify and deal with depression onto existing programs. Jane Bavineau is the project director for Care for Elders and vice president of Sheltering Arms Senior Services, one of several local organizations taking part in this model program.

Jan Edwards is case management director for Sheltering Arms. She says case workers now use the Geriatric Depression Scale, a series of questions, to identify people with symptoms of depression.

Edwards says a case in point was a woman with severe rheumatoid arthritis. The caseworker identified her desire to be able to comb her hair. That was enough to get her to get physical therapy.

This three year model program is funded by the administration on aging and is designed to work with public organizations too. If it proves itself Healthy Ideas could be expanded nationally.

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