People with dementia experience less depression in nursing homes than community living, large European study suggests

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People with severe dementia are less likely to be depressed if they are living in a nursing home rather than a community-based setting, recently published findings suggest.

The study involved about 400 people with late-stage dementia in eight European countries. Of roughly 200 people living in facilities, caregivers reported that 23% had signs of depression, the investigators found. That compared to 37% of the people living in the community. The “pattern of depression” was consistent across all the countries.

The rate of depression might be lower in nursing homes because these individuals have more opportunity to socialize and participate in activities, one of the University of Manchester researchers suggested.

However, she also noted research relied on caregivers' subjective impressions of the individuals with dementia. Professional caregivers might be less sensitive to signs of depression because they do not know the patient as well as a loved one does; on the other hand, overburdened family caregivers might overrate depression.

The investigators intend to see if their findings are borne out when official diagnoses of depression are used instead of informal reports from carers.

Complete findings appear in International Psychogeriatrics.