Management of Depression in the Elderly


A feeling of sadness is not uncommon in old age because this is a time when one would inevitably experience losses. It could be the physiological changes with resultant deteriorating health such as loss of sight, hearing, memory, mobility, strength, etc. It could be social and occupational losses such as retirement with its accompanying loss of contact with colleagues at work, income, status and roles. And it could be the ultimate loss of loved ones in bereavement due to death of spouse or because grown up children have left the home. If not well negotiated, any of these can precipitate depressive episodes in the elderly.

In a community study of more than 600 Chinese aged 65 years and more living in Singapore, the overall prevalence of depressive disorder was about six percent, making it the commonest psychiatric disorders among the elderly. Besides feelings of dejection, hopelessness, helplessness and unworthiness, depressive disorder in the elderly often manifests physiological symptoms like diminished energy level, fatiguability, impaired concentration, memory difficulties, poor appetite and weight loss, and vague physical complaints not caused by organic factors like bodily aches, headaches, numbness and weakness of limbs, and chest and abdominal discomfort. What is more worrying is that depression is a risk factor of late-life suicide.

This one-day workshop will enable participants to recognise old age depression and implement intervention early to avert such a consequence. A holistic biopsychosocial approach including treatment with antidepressants, psychological therapies, social support and community services will be presented.

Target Participants

  • Mental health workers eg psychologists, counsellors, case managers
  • Social workers, social work assistants, nurses and caregivers

Course Objectives

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Recognise the signs and symptoms of depression in the elderly
  • Identify risk factors
  • Implement basic intervention
  • To make necessary referrals to appropriate agencies for further management

Course Outline

  • Understanding biopsychosocial changes in the elderly
  • Signs and symptoms of depression in the elderly
  • Losses and grief
  • Causes of depression
  • Assessment of suicide risk
  • Intervention strategies
  • Referrals

Course Duration

One day