What is the Geriatric Depression Scale?

What is the Geriatric Depression Scale?

Depression can hit people of all ages. If you’re a senior and you’re concerned about depression, use the Geriatric Depression Scale to see if you’re at risk.

Depression affects more than 15 million Americans over the age of 18 and the median age of onset is 32. Though depression most commonly affects adolescents and younger adults, it is also fairly common in the elderly. That’s where the geriatric depression scale comes in.

Geriatric depression has become so common that it has its own scale for measurement – the geriatric depression scale. Though not intended as a replacement for medical diagnosis, it is a tool that doctors may use to help make a diagnosis.

Facts About Geriatric Depression

It is very common for elderly adults to develop depression, though depression is by no means a normal consequence of aging. Geriatric depression affects as many as six million Americans over the age of 65 but only about 10% of those actually receive treatment. Elderly individuals experience depression differently, in some cases, and the symptoms are often confused with other illnesses.

Related: How To Find a Geriatrician

In older adults, depression can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and it has been correlated with an increased risk for death after a heart attack. For all of these reasons, it is important to make sure that geriatric depression be properly diagnosed and managed. One of the main tools used in the diagnosis of depression in older adults is the geriatric depression scale.

Understanding the Geriatric Depression Scale

The geriatric depression scale consists of fifteen questions and it was developed in 1986. In order to measure the severity of an elderly patient’s depression, they are asked to answer all 15 questions with a yes or no response based on how they felt over the past week. An answer of zero to four is suggestive of depression and should warrant a follow-up with a comprehensive assessment. A score of ten or more is almost always indicative of depression. Here are the fifteen questions on the geriatric depression scale:

  1. Are you basically satisfied with your life?
  2. Have you dropped many of your activities and interests?
  3. Do you feel that your life is empty?
  4. Do you often get bored?
  5. Are you in good spirits most of the time?
  6. Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you?
  7. Do you feel happy most of the time?
  8. Do you often feel helpless?
  9. Do you prefer to stay at home, rather than going out and doing new things?
  10. Do you feel you have more problems with memory than most?
  11. Do you think it is wonderful to be alive now?
  12. Do you feel pretty worthless the way you are now?
  13. Do you feel full of energy?
  14. Do you feel that your situation is hopeless?
  15. Do you think that most people are better off than you are?

Though the geriatric depression scale is a helpful diagnostic tool, it should not be used as a replacement for a comprehensive exam by a mental health professional. If you or a loved one scores a 5 or more on this test, you should consider speaking to your doctor about your symptoms to see if a comprehensive exam is warranted.

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