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Use of the Geriatric Depression Scale to Improve Screening, Identification and Intervention for Depression Among Older Adults in the Primary Care Setting

The purpose of this quality improvement project was to determine whether increased use of an age-specific depression screening tool, the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS 15-item), improved screening for depression in elderly patients and improved identification of and intervention for depression among elderly patients in a selected primary care setting. Depression affects approximately two million older adults and has been found to be a common yet frequently undiagnosed condition among geriatric patients in the primary care setting. The extent of undiagnosed depression helps to justify the need to improve geriatric depression screening in the primary care setting. A review of the literature demonstrates the efficacy of the GDS tool in screening for geriatric depression. Theoretical frameworks used to underpin the structure and guide this project include the Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication and Lewin’s Change Theory as they provide the elements vital to effective communication and change, respectively. The project design and methods included a pre- and post-intervention data analysis to examine the implementation of the GDS 15-item tool into the primary care practice setting. The results of this project support the importance of screening for depression in patients 65 years and older more frequently (ideally at six month intervals) and utilizing an age-specific depression screening tool such as the GDS-15 in the selected primary care setting. Future work should focus on increasing the frequency and standard use of the GDS 15-item in geriatric patients in primary care settings.