Existential Suffering and Geriatric Depression
Our world is confronted with an unseen growth of the older population, paralleled with a dramatic increase in nursing home residents (NHRs). Current scientific studies and reports of care professionals show, however, alarmingly high levels of depressive symptomatology in NHRs. These depressive symptoms are most often met with a pharmacological treatment, despite the controversy on the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs in NHRs. Simultaneously, NH-professionals report existential needs and existential distress of their residents. Understanding existential distress has increasingly become a focus of study in cancer care and palliative medicine, but is hardly studied in the NH-context. This is remarkable since the NH context of loss, disease, and decreasing autonomy might easily trigger existential distress. Furthermore, despite the similarities between depressive symptoms and existential distress (like meaninglessness and existential loneliness), and despite the overlap in items to measure geriatric depression and existential distress, virtually no knowledge is available on how geriatric depressive symptoms and existential concerns are influencing each other. This project, therefore, clarifies the relationship between geriatric depressive symptoms and existential distress, and does this both from the perspective of the NHRs and of the NH-professional.