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 Facing Up To The Winter Blues

With winter and the holidays approaching, clinicians often see higher rates of depression. Skilled nursing and other long term care centers need to be aware of these concerns as patients, residents, and staff alike may be susceptible to depression during this time, they say.
For instance, returning to standard time is more than just an inconvenience for many people. It actually may mean a diagnosis of depression. A recent study suggests that depression rates increase immediately after daylight saving time ends in the fall (Nov. 6 this year). In fact, the researchers found that the transition from summer time to standard time was associated with an 11 percent increase in the incidence rate of unipolar depressive cases, which dissipated over the next 10 weeks.
The study, by Associate Professor Soren Ostergaard, PhD, from Aarhus University of Risskov in Denmark, et al., says that this increase in rates of depression is too significant to be coincidental. However, the study didn’t identify underlying triggers for the increased depression rates. Ostergaard suggests a possible connection between depression and fewer hours of sunlight and/or the coming of colder weather.
For depression that is related to the change of seasons, there are many non-drug interventions that may be helpful, clinical experts say. For instance, brisk walks outside may be useful (work with a clinician to determine if this is safe for the individual). Getting sunlight is beneficial, even if it just means sitting in a sunroom or enclosed porch. Keep blinds open, and, if necessary, consider a light therapy box to mimic sunlight.
Other useful tips include eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, including plenty of Vitamins C and D, and getting regular exercise and socialization.
Of course, once a person is diagnosed with depression, the clinician will work with him or her to determine individualized treatment. This often involves the use of antidepressant medication. Choosing the best antidepressant for each patient or resident can be a challenge.
Now a study out of the University of California/Los Angeles describes a noninvasive way to predict which patients will respond favorably to the most commonly used antidepressants. Researchers report that a simple biomarker—a pair of brain-wave records or electroencephalograms that can be performed in about 10 minutes—can predict whether a person will enter remission after just one week of treatment with a particular medication. This can prevent the trial and error that often accompanies antidepressant prescribing and enable patients to feel better quicker.
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