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Symptoms of depression in people living in residential aged care

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For people in permanent residential aged care, the ACFI included a slightly modified version of the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia, a 19-item measure of depressive symptoms completed by both the resident (if possible) and by an informant (carer, staff member).

Figure 19 shows the distribution of scores on the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia in people who entered permanent residential aged care from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2022 (excluding those without a Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia score). 76,314 people did not have a score recorded on the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia in their ACFI. For most of these (n=76,171, 99.8%), it was recorded that a Cornell Scale was not conducted because there were no symptoms of depression present.  In ACFI records, these people were recorded without a score, but are categorised in the ‘Minimal or no symptoms’ group (see Table 1 below).

Scores tended to spike on the cusp of each category. This may indicate a cautionary approach to assessment to ensure that resident symptoms are monitored over time. This pattern could also reflect efforts to access higher levels of funding.

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Among 290,224 people who entered permanent residential aged care between July 2017 and June 2022 and were categorised using the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia in ACFI, 181,332 (62.5%) were recorded as having at least mild symptoms of depression (Table 1). About 25% of those with symptoms of depression were recorded with major symptoms of depression.

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