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Prevention of Psychosocial Problems in the Elderly

By James T. Pacala, MD, MS, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School

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Patient Education

Depression screening is recommended because depression is common among the elderly. Screening is relatively easy; several instruments do not require a physician for administration. For patients who feel lonely or isolated, social worker assistance to increase social contacts may prevent morbidity and postpone death. For those who are depressed, appropriate intervention with counseling or drugs is warranted.

A sense of self-worth may contribute to better health. Patients should be encouraged to remain productive, engage in leisure activities, and remain or become involved with other people. These actions can enhance self-worth. Suggesting activities that confirm a sense of social connectedness, such as obtaining a pet, contributing to household chores, or doing volunteer work, may help prevent psychosocial problems (and physical disability).