Recognizing and Treating Depression in Long Term Care With Psychotropic Medications

Depression is a condition that doesn’t discriminate. And when it comes to long-term care, the National Institutes of Health suggests it is a condition that affects about 26.9% of older nursing home patients. 

However, the Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the U.S. reports that depression is much more common among nursing home residents, stating that up to 50% of nursing home residents experience either major or significant depression. That means one in two patients are facing considerable mental health challenges in addition to whatever physical ailments they’re trying to manage.

Further complicating recognition of and treatment for depression in long-term care facilities is the fact half of long-term care residents are living with dementia, according to Harvard University research. 

The good news is, effective treatment is available. And, psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants may be beneficial in not only treating geriatric depression but preventing severe depression for residents. 

At UnitedRx, our team of pharmacists act as trusted partners for providers offering treatment to patients living with depression and anxiety in part due to our specific expertise in long-term care. In fact, our team’s expertise extends beyond nursing homes to include patients staying in skilled nursing facilities, hospice, assisted living communities, residential facilities and even correctional facilities. 

Managing the use of certain psychotropic medications, specifically antipsychotics, for geriatric patients has been a concern, prompting a warning recently from the Food and Drug Administration. Overprescribing or inappropriate prescriptions can have a negative impact on residents living with dementia.

In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in early 2023 an initiative to increase its oversight of psychotropic use in nursing homes. As a trusted partner, we at UnitedRx stay up to speed on regulatory changes and best practices in the industry, and we are adept at working with providers and facilities to find solutions to even the most challenging resident cases. 

Even in an era of increased awareness, vigilance and oversight related to psychotropic drug use in residential facilities, the American Psychological Association recommends a combination of interpersonal psychotherapy along with “second-generation” antidepressants to treat geriatric depression. 

When medications are needed, in addition to psychotherapy, and combined with empathetic care that ensures the needs of a resident in a long-term care facility are being met — from physical to emotional to mental — patients and providers may start to see improvement.

As the pharmaceutical landscape evolves, with the introduction of new medications, and best practices shift as evidence-based recommendations come to light, it’s important for long-term care facilities to have the ability to review treatment plans with pharmacists equipped with long-term care expertise. 

The team at UnitedRx is always available to discuss medication and treatment plans with long-term care facility partners, and we’re ready to leverage our expertise in the field to discover solutions that improve outcomes for patients. 

At UnitedRx, we deliver a hometown pharmacy experience to more than 400 clients across the country. Contact us to learn more about how our approach to treatment can meet the pharmacy needs of your long-term care facility.