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A study of 272 elders, with an average age of 81, examined how often patients reported feeling depressed and were prescribed antidepressants at both a long-term care facility and through a home-care agency in west-central Indiana. At the long-term care facility, 30 percent of the elders in the study reported feeling depressed, compared with 11 percent who received care in their homes through medical and social services. (Teresi et al., 2001).

Depression is one of the most common and treatable of all mental disorders in later life, but it can be life threatening if it is unrecognized and untreated. (American Geriatrics Society & American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 2003). The literature also states that depression goes untreated very often among African-Americans.

One of the reasons for this may be that cultural differences in the way depression symptoms are manifested, defined, interpreted and labeled may in part explain some of these racial differences in help-seeking behaviors. (O’Connor et al., 2010). In fact, depression looks different for the typical black patient, than the typical white depressed patient. (Fabrega, 1988).

However, according to the literature depression among African-Americans needs further investigation. African American elderly subjects have been underrepresented in studies of institutional and community-based long- term care. (Teresi, et al., 2002).

Older African Americans are an expanding segment of the elderly population in the United States. Yet despite progress in the epidemiology of late-life depression, little data have been documented in the scientific literature on depressive symptoms among elderly African Americans (Okwumabua, Baker, Wong & Pilgram,


What is needed is not...

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...hese disorders are related to other aspects of general health. Further research is needed to increase awareness of major depression among general practitioners and to target outreach to African American communities. (Mills, n.d.).


Depression can be minimized if it is appropriately treated. Thus depression is not an illness that comes about due to the aging process instead, it is not a normal consequence of aging, and it is a growing concern. Patry (2002) states that depression is considered a serious public health problem and if it is left untreated can lead to death.

Nursing care providers’ difficulty in recognizing depressive symptomology in African-Americans may mean that the disorder remains untreated in this population. It is important for nursing care providers to recognize, assess and appropriately treat patients for symptoms of depression.
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