Registered Nurses Experiences of Managing Depressive Symptoms at Care Centres for Older People: A Qualitative Descriptive Study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Background Depressive symptoms and/or depression are commonly experienced by older people. Both are underdiagnosed, undertreated and regularly overlooked by healthcare professionals. Healthcare facilities for people aged ≥75 years have been in place in Sweden since 2015. The aim of these care centres, which are managed by registered nurses (RNs), is to offer care adjusted to cater to the complex needs and health problems of older people. Although the mental health of older people is prioritised in these centres, research into the experience of RNs of depressive symptoms and/or depression in older people in this setting is limited. Therefore, this study aimed to illuminate RNs, working at care centres for older people, experience of identifying and intervening in cases of depressive symptoms. Methods The data for this qualitative descriptive study were collected through interviews (n = 10) with RNs working at 10 care centres for older people in southern Sweden. The transcribed texts were analysed using inductive content analysis. Results The participants’ experiences could be understood from four predominant themes: (1) challenging to identify, (2) described interventions, (3) prerequisites for identification, and (4) contextual influences. Key findings were that it was difficult to identify depression as it often manifested as physical symptoms; evidence-based nursing interventions were generally not the first-line treatment used; trust, continuity and the ability of RNs to think laterally; and the context influenced the ability of RNs to manage older people’s depressive symptoms and/or depression. Conclusions The process of identifying depressive symptoms and performing an appropriate intervention was found to be complex, especially as older people were reluctant to present at the centres and provided obscure reasons for doing so. A nurse-patient relationship that was built on trust and was characterised by continuity of care was identified as a necessary prerequisite. Appropriate nursing interventions—afforded the same status as pharmacological treatment—are warranted as the first-line treatment of depression. Further research is also needed into efficacious nursing interventions targeting depressive symptoms and/or depression.