Geriatric Depression Scale

The Geriatric Depression Scale is used for older folks.

Depression in older people is often accompanied by and associated with various medical conditions that are extremely difficult to overcome. Hence, diagnosing, treating, and managing geriatric depression is very complex and challenging.

Geriatric patients are at greater risk of suffering from problems like dementia, brain hemorrhage resulting in stroke and paralysis, etc, which exhibit a lot of mental and physical symptoms. Hence, detecting depression in geriatric patients is difficult and needs to be carried out under extreme care.

Since time is at a premium with all depression patients, and especially with geriatric cases, diagnosis and treatment of depression needs to be handled quickly and effectively.

About the Scale

The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) is a depression inventory or test primarily employed by healthcare practitioners and physicians to detect depression in older patients. GDS comprises of a questionnaire containing 15 questions used to identify symptoms of depression along with the severity and intensity of depression experienced by older patients.

Each question has to be answered by ticking off the corresponding “yes” or “no” boxes available against each of them. Assessment is based on the total number of “yes” answers or “no” answers based on the GDS administered. There are two versions of Geriatric Depression Scale which are currently available.

The Short Version

The first version, developed by Yesavage, comprises of 15 questions accompanied by “yes” and “no” answers. A score greater than 5 is indicative of depression and needs to assessed, treated, and managed by professional healthcare practitioners as early as possible.

This short version of Yesavage Geriatric Depression Scale is generally administered to geriatric patients who suffer from dementia or various physical conditions, because this is a relatively shorter scale and will not take more than 6-7 minutes to complete.

The short version of the Geriatric Depression Scale with 15 questions can be accessed online..

The Long Version

The long version or the second version of GDS consists of 30 questions and “yes” and “no” options regarding physical or emotional symptoms experienced during the week prior to taking the GDS test or quiz.

Also, these “yes” and “no” options appear in a combination of upper case and lower case for all 30 questions. From the total of 30 questions, a set of 10 questions have the options represented by “yes” and “NO”. Here, “NO” represents depressed answers and “yes” represents non-depressed answers. The balance set of 20 questions have the reverse options where upper case “YES” represents depressed answers and lower case “no” represents non-depressed answers.

Results are tabulated based on the total number of upper case “YES” and upper case “NO” options selected, since they represent depressed answers. The long version of the Geriatric Depression Scale comprising 30 questions can be accessed online.

Understanding the Scores

As mentioned earlier, a score of higher than 5 points in the short version of GDS is indicative of depression.

In the long form or second version of Geriatric Depression Scale, depending upon the upper case “YES” and “NO” answers, the results are tabulated and evaluated as described:

  • One point is awarded to answers with “YES” or “NO” responses (note the upper case) that are indicative of depression.
  • Total points from 0 to 9 are indicative of being non-depressed.
  • Total points from 10 to 19 are indicative of being mildly depressed.
  • Total points from 20 to 30 are indicative of being severely depressed.

The GDS is generally used in a hospital or healthcare setting but can also be self-administered. However, it is best to take the council and guidance of an experienced healthcare professional, since the interpretation of results needs to take into account various factors like age, physical complaints, and education.

In cases of detecting depression, patients will be required to obtain professional help at the earliest, since managing and caring for geriatric patients with depression is relatively difficult.

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