There are many reasons an older patient may be depressed – they may be grieving, they may have serious medical issues, they may have chronic pain. Sometimes they will say “I feel depressed.” Most of the time; however, they will not.
Primary care physicians and psychiatrists are trained in looking for signs and symptoms of depression in older adults. One good way to understand these signs and symptoms is to use a standardized rating scale called the GDS – Geriatric Depression Scale. The questions of this scale relate to ways that older adults may show they are depressed.
If you suspect an older friend or loved one may be depressed, here are some ye/no questions from the GDS that you may want to ask:
1) Are you basically satisfied with your life? YES/NO
2) Have you dropped many of your activities and interests? YES/NO
3) Do you feel that your life is empty? YES/NO
4) Do you often get bored? YES/NO
5) Are you in good spirits most of the time? YES/NO
6) Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you? YES/NO
7) Do you feel happy most of the time? YES/NO
8) Do you often feel helpless? YES/NO
9) Do you prefer to stay at home, rather than going out and doing new things? YES/NO
10) Do you feel that you have more problems with memory than most? YES/NO
11) Do you think it is wonderful to be alive now? YES/NO
12) Do you feel pretty worthless right now? YES/NO
13) Do you feel full of energy? YES/NO
14) Do you feel that your situation is hopeless? YES/NO
15) Do you think that most people are better off than you are? YES/NO
If they answer 5 or more of the BOLD responses this is suggestive of depression. I strongly
recommend that you have them see their primary care doctor to make sure there is no
medical issue to cause these symptoms. If there is no clear medical issue, then a referral to
a therapist or psychiatrist may be in order.
To learn more, or to schedule an appointment, contact our office at (919) 636-5240.
Live Mentally Healthy,
Dr. Jennie Byrne
Dr. Jennie Byrne, M.D., PhD.
With over 15 years of medical expertise, Jennie Byrne, MD, PhD, is a board-certified psychiatrist with experience treating mental health conditions in adults, including dementia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression. After practicing in New York City for 12 years, Dr. Byrne relocated to North Carolina in 2008; she currently cares for patients in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill. Dr. Byrne earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She then received her doctorate from New York University Department of Neurophysiology. She also has a doctorate of medicine from New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Byrne went on to complete a psychiatry residency at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. In addition to her work as a psychiatrist, Dr. Byrne has performed extensive research on attention, memory, and depression. As a board-certified adult psychiatrist, Dr. Byrne focuses on the needs of each patient to pro