Soothing Grandma's Depressive Symptoms

Tele therapy alleviates depression in nursing homes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Although the elderly population may have the smallest amount of internet usage, they set to gain substantially from it if they find themselves in a nursing home.

Recent studies show that elderly nursing home patients who received a few minutes of videoconferencing with their family each week were significantly less depressed than those who didn't consult the net for familial face time.

"Find a time to set up a weekly videoconference with your family."

The study, available through the Journal of Medical Internet Research, worked with 16 nursing homes and 90 elderly residents. Residents were divided into an experimental and control group, where 40 patients received at least five minutes per week of videoconferencing with family, and the control group of 50 patients did not. Both groups maintained their usual schedule of personal family visits.  

Face-to-face interviews evaluated elderly with accredited rating scales at 3, 6, and 12-months.  

According to study author, Yun-Fang Tsai, Ph.D., "the purpose of this longitudinal quasi-experimental study was to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of a videoconference intervention in improving nursing home residents' social support, loneliness, and depressive status over 1 year."  

And the study did just that, noting the videoconference program alleviated depression and loneliness symptoms throughout the year for the elderly nursing home patients, and decreased their need for instrumental social support.  

The doctor reports: "our study results are different from another report of no significant difference in depression and loneliness among older adults after 5 months of training to access the Internet and email. In that study, however, participants were only trained to access the Internet, not to specifically contact family members or significant others."

Yun-Fang speaks in regards to a 2002 study from Aging & Mental Health in which Duke University's Medical Center trained the elderly to use the internet to monitor depression and loneliness ratings.  Although a fractional increase was apparent, no significant difference was determined.  

The elderly did, however, begin using the internet more frequently thereafter.  

Dr. Yun-Fang Tsai argues direct training on increasing communications with family on the internet to be the most important factor to alleviating depression.  If you or or a loved one currently resides in an alternative facility or nursing home, talk with your family about starting a weekly videoconference.  Just a few minutes a week has profound results. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 15, 2011
Last Updated:
November 16, 2011