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3 Risk Factors for Depression in Nursing Home Patients

Depression is a common mental disorder in older adults, and it affects approximately 2 million people aged 65 and up. If your older loved one resides in a nursing home, it’s important to understand the risk factors associated with depression in these facilities.

Likewise, it’s also important to note that there are some risk factors of depression that are more common among the elderly than younger adults. Understanding these risk factors and how they can impact your loved one’s mental health will help you know what to look out for and how best to support them during this time.

Understanding the Risk Factors for Depression in Nursing Home Patients

Depression can affect anyone—even someone who outwardly appears to lead a relatively happy life. What causes it? Researchers say there are several possible reasons:

  • Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemical compounds in the brain may contribute
  • Genetics: Depression runs in families
  • Personality: Those with low self esteem, who are easily overwhelmed, or who tend to be pessimistic may be more prone to depression
  • Life events: Losses such as divorce, death of a spouse, loss of a job, or other major changes in life can trigger depression

These factors impact people of all ages. However, certain factors are more likely to impact seniors, such as the following:

Loss and Grief

The loss and grieving process is something we all experience at some point in our lives. We lose people close to us, whether it be family members, friends, pets, or even work colleagues. Sometimes, it takes longer to recover from the death of someone you love than others. You might start feeling sad, angry, guilty, lonely, scared, depressed, or anxious.

Nursing home residents may have lost their spouse, children, siblings, parents, or other relatives. Some of them may have also lost their independence as they age. This means that they no longer drive themselves around, cook for themselves, or take care of their own hygiene. When you add on top of that the fact that they’re living in a place where they don’t feel comfortable, it can make the risk of depression even higher.

Declining Health

As we grow older, our health declines, we lose strength and flexibility, and our joints become stiffer. We start having trouble walking. We begin to feel pain. All of these things make us less mobile and increase the chances that we’ll develop chronic conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis.

Our minds tend to focus on negative experiences such as illness, loss, and injury. This makes us feel sad and anxious. When we’re feeling down, we often find ourselves thinking about how much better things used to be. Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of aging, we focus on what’s wrong with us. These thoughts keep us stuck in the cycle of negativity. They can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and despair.

Pain itself can trigger depression. When we hurt, we withdraw from others. We stop doing things we enjoy. If we’re depressed, we may avoid social situations altogether. We may even isolate ourselves. We think we’re protecting ourselves, but we end up hurting ourselves.


Long-term care residents often live in environments where they are less able to see their families or friends. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, which are a strong predictor of depression. People living in long-term care facilities may have lower levels of social support and greater feelings of loneliness.

Contact a New York Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Depression can also be a sign of nursing home abuse. If your loved one who normally greets you warmly seems to be disengaged or not like themselves, it could be a sign of underlying issues. You can contact Dalli & Marino, LLP to take legal action if this is the case.

Our elder abuse lawyers may be able to review what’s going on to evaluate the possibility of abuse or neglect. Then, we can advise you on your available legal options. For more information about elder abuse cases involving assisted living and/or nursing home care, contact us online or call (888) 465-8790. We also speak Spanish.

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