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There’s no one solution for treating depression in seniors: U of T expert

Almost one in 10 seniors suffers from clinical depression, a rate that doubles in long-term care homes (photo by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Depression is prevalent in older people and is often a greater challenge to treat, says Dr. Alastair Flint, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine.

Almost one in 10 seniors suffers from clinical depression, a rate that doubles in long-term care homes, Flint writes in this week's edition of Doctors' Notes, the Toronto Star's weekly column created by U of T medical experts.

Read previous Doctors' Notes columns from U of T medical experts

“And a growing body of research suggests if you suffer from depression, you’re at a higher risk of developing memory loss or dementia,” writes Flint, who is also a geriatric psychiatrist at the University Health Network and a senior scientist in the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute.

But treating depression in older people can be tough: They often find it hard to tolerate medications, and side-effects can be severe, he writes. Seniors often take a lot of medications that can interact badly, and older people often are more forgetful, skipping some medications or taking them improperly.

Flint writes that he and his colleagues have launched a five-year study named OPTIMUM to study two strategies commonly used for treating older adults with difficult-to-treat depression – switching to a new medication, or continuing with the first medication and adding a second one.

Flint’s team is working with scientists in Canada and the U.S., with the hopes of recruiting 1,500 seniors with treatment-resistant depression.

“Right now, we don’t really have any evidence to show which is the best approach to help older adults, so my colleagues and I want to fix that,” Flint writes.

Read the full Doctors' Notes column in the Toronto Star