Holidays May Bring about Depression for Seniors

Holidays May Bring about Depression for Seniors

TMF Initiative Helps Physicians Identify Signs of Depression

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Emilie Fennell
Director, Communications and External Relations

Rachel Jordan-Shuss
Communications Specialist
TMF Health Quality Institute

Austin, TX – December 21, 2015 – The holiday season is a time for festivities and being with family and friends, but some of our most vulnerable loved ones may be at risk for depression, especially at this time of the year. In response to this concern, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has launched a national program to make sure we recognize depression in and provide assistance to senior citizens at risk. As the CMS Quality Innovation Network Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) for Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico, TMF Health Quality Institute is leading this initiative in the region.

“Depression may be brought on for a number of reasons including chronic illness, missing loved ones or even just the hustle and bustle of the holidays,” said Vanessa Andow, the initiative’s project director for TMF. “Recognizing the onset and providing assistance and treatment is critical”.

Symptoms of depression in seniors vary from those in younger individuals making screening even more important. In addition, treatments for common diseases in older individuals, such as diabetes and heart disease, can often magnify feelings of depression.

“Untreated depression may contribute to significantly worse health outcomes and difficulty or inability to function,” said Clifford Moy, MD, TMF medical director. “Depression may range from sadness, difficulty with cognitive function, diminished appetite, lower energy levels and less satisfaction or joy in life or even suicidal thoughts.”

Ms. Andow and Dr. Moy are part of a CMS initiative focused on increasing the ability of our regional providers to routinely screen for depression and alcohol misuse as well as ensure they have the resources to treat those in need.

“According to the National Council for Behavioral Health and the Institute of Medicine, nearly 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries live with one or more mental health or substance use conditions. However, fewer than 40 percent of these older adults receive treatment,” said Ms. Andow. “Through a collaborative effort with primary care physicians, inpatient psychiatric facilities, hospitals, partners, stakeholders and other health care providers, the TMF QIN is focusing on increasing the screening for depression and alcohol use disorders in primary care settings.”

Currently, 630 regional physician practices have joined the initiative and will receive free resources and support. TMF’s goal is to engage 1,000 practices in the QIN region to participate in this initiative.

There are ways you can help your loved ones at risk for depression.

“Quick screening tests can lead to an earlier diagnosis, more rapid recovery from depression and avoiding hospitalization,” said Dr. Moy. “If you are concerned about a friend or loved one, ask them if they are having trouble sleeping or have a diminished appetite. Offer to take them for a screening.”

Ms. Andow and Dr. Moy are available for interviews.

About TMF Health Quality Institute
TMF Health Quality Institute focuses on improving lives by improving the quality of health care through contracts with federal, state and local governments, as well as private organizations. For 40 years, TMF has helped health care providers and practitioners in a variety of settings improve care for their patients.