Recognising signs of depression in residents of aged care facilities

We spoke with Carol, one of our ACFI Specialists, about how she turned a resident’s quality of life around when she recognised signs of depression and isolation.

Listen to the interview above or read the transcript here:

Carol: Okay, I want to talk about a little lady in a facility I was working in recently. This little lady, she… the staff didn’t recognize depression in this little lady. She had a diagnosis of depression when I spoke to the staff about her and how I felt about it. She was a little lady… she just absolutely tore my heart out. So I spent a lot of time, more than I should have, with this little lady. I spoke to her quite frequently. When I talked to the staff, they thought she was doing great because she’d love to sit in her room. She loved to sit there by herself. When they’d pop their head in and said, “How are you going?” “I’m good.” And she was fine.

When I sat and spoke to her, she had previously tried to commit suicide by overdosing herself. She sat in her room, and she wasn’t sitting there happy and content like they thought she was. She was sitting there every day, all day, and she told me she just wished the world would stop because she wanted to get off. She went to bed every night wishing she would never wake up. She used to get visitors quite often. Her family used to come and get her and take her out for the day at least once a week. She put on a good front. The staff thought she was really happy to see them but she spoke about the family, she didn’t want them to come and see her anymore. She didn’t want them to visit her anymore because they wore her out because she had to put on such a big front for them. She didn’t want to see them because she was just over it. And she said she just didn’t want to deal with it anymore, and she couldn’t deal with it anymore.

I spoke to the staff about depression and the signs of depression and what to look for. Spoke to them about how this little lady really needed a lot more time, and then when I was talking to her . . . I used to go and spend about half an hour to an hour with her every day and just sit with her, then she told me about a hernia that she had. She hadn’t told the staff about this hernia because she didn’t want to bother them because they were all so busy that she didn’t want to bother them. And she thought the other residents needed them more than she did. The hernia, when she described it, I was convinced it was a prolapse because she told me it hung between her legs. When we talked about it and I had a look, it was actually a hernia that you couldn’t touch.

This little – and it was a facility that really loved their residents. That was no fault of their own, they just really didn’t have the education on how to speak, what questions to ask. She had this huge hernia, she was fully showered every morning but nobody saw it and nobody knew about it because when she was in the shower, she used to hold it up. So I asked her to… Could I speak to the Care Manager about it, and I did. I went to the Care Manager. And when I left she was being assisted by the doctor, hopefully having her hernia fixed and her depression was being addressed.

So it’s just about learning to ask the right questions and learning to recognize depression and things like that in the elderly. And sometimes, if they go back to their room and they are sitting there quietly by themselves, they’re not doing it always because they like to sit by themselves. Sometimes they’re doing it because they just can’t face anything. And that’s my story.

Interviewer: What do you say to people that say this ACFI work is all about getting more money?

Carol: When they start talking about money, I talk to the staff and they say, “You’re after money”, and I say, “Yes, we’re after money, but the main thing is look at your residents and give the residents your special care.” Put your programs in, do everything absolutely possible for your residents. And you don’t have to work hard at ACT fee. If you do everything for your resident and give the resident everything they need, ACFI automatically falls out of it. And really isn’t that hard. And yeah, ACFI is about money, but it’s also about giving the care that the residents really deserve.

Interviewer: Do you like your job?

Carol: I love my job.

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