Frequently Asked Questions About Geriatric Depression Scale’s Importance

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Do you remember kids saying that they cannot wait to go to college and be independent?

 Yes, that happens even now, and I was one of those kids who would not let a day pass without telling my parents that. Whenever they would ask me to do my chores, I would say, “Ugh! When I’m in college, you cannot boss me around anymore.” Whenever they would tell me to do my homework, I would say, “When I’m in college, you won’t be breathing down my neck anymore.” And whenever I would not be allowed to go to a party, I would say, “You’ll see, when I’m in college, I can do whatever I want.”

 If you think about it, children’s mindset shows that college is connotated with the word “independence.” It is as if you become untouchable when you become a college student as if no adult can tell you what to do. But the best part about it is that the parents are still somewhat obliged to give you everything you need because you are still a student. They may ask you to get a student loan or find a part-time job, but they will still cover a significant portion of your bills. Hence, you can party until you drop.

Being In College

I could vividly recall that I practically jumped out of the car the first time I set foot in my college. There was an immediate sense of belonging in my heart, even though the classes did not start yet, and I did not know anyone there. Once my parents were done helping me organize my stuff in the dormitory, I acted like a lunatic and ran around the campus.

Parties aside, I enjoyed being a college student. I took a degree in marketing and advertising, which meant that we always had events cooking up. The only downtimes that we had were during lectures. Still, other than that, we would be planning small festivals, concerts, seminars, and even product demos to build up our experiences as future marketers and advertisers.

College life would not be complete without joining a sorority or fraternity, of course. I was hesitant to join one during my freshman year because of the bad rep that such organizations had been getting over the years. But when a classmate asked me to join with her, I realized that my worries were unwarranted. In truth, during my second semester, I moved into the sorority house, thus making my college life more colorful.

 Then, Graduation Came

I was in the 10th grade when the first Pitch Perfect movie came out. One memorable scene where Chloe, one of the main characters, mentioned that she kept putting off her graduation because she did not know what to do afterward. Back then, I wondered what’s the big idea about graduating. In my head, it was a part of life. When I graduated from elementary and middle school, I didn’t even cry or miss my friends or teachers. However, when I graduated from college, I understood Chloe’s dilemma because I experienced post-college depression.

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It took years before I managed to get over my post-college depression. After six months, I somehow got used to looking at nowhere in the distance or spacing out during conversations. Thus, when I finally overcame it, I thought, “Wow, I survived!”

But The Fight Is Not Over Until It’s Over

Decades after that, I got diagnosed with geriatric depression. I was already 56 years old at the time; my dog just passed away. I felt lonely and sleepless, so I went to see a psychiatrist to get a prescription for sleeping pills. However, as I conversed with the mental health professional, she told me that she’s seeing signs of depression in me.

My initial reaction was, “That can’t be true. I already overcame depression in my 20s.”

The doctor explained gently that having depression back in the day made me more prone to depression later. I went home to mull things over and eventually realized that she might be right – I might genuinely have geriatric depression.

What is the Geriatric Depression Scale used for?

The geriatric depression scale (GDS) has been used to assess how depressed an old age individual is. The scale was created in the early 80s by J.A. Yesavage and company. 

Keep in mind that GDS is not the only basis that psychiatrists and psychologists depend on before they diagnose a senior with depression. It is part of an ensemble of self-report questionnaires that they use for this purpose.

How do you score the Geriatric Depression Scale?

One important thing to understand is that the geriatric depression scale consists of yes-or-no questions. As for the questions, they are meant to describe the symptoms of depression that people often feel. Because of that, if the questionnaire says, “Are you satisfied with where you are in your life?” and the patient answers no, that is one point. 

Once the results arrive, and it shows that you have gotten at least five points in the short form of GDS or at least 10 points in the long form of GDS, the psychiatrist or psychologist may ask you to come back follow-up checkup. Those numbers do not mean that you have depression, but you have still touched the baseline, so further examination is important. 

What is the Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form?

The short form of geriatric depression scale cuts down the 30 complete questions to a total of 15. Based on the sample questionnaires that we have gotten ahold of, the patients need to indicate if they feel bored, happy, helpless, in good spirits, lonesome, energetic, and other emotions. 

Saying yes to many positives does not always indicate that a person is free from depression. If you say no to at least five of them, it is not set in stone still, but it suggests that you most likely have depression. In that case, you need to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional for further evaluation.

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Is the Geriatric Depression Scale a reliable screening tool?

Yes, the geriatric depression scale (GDS) has consistently been recognized as a reliable screening tool for depression in adults. It primarily hinges on the fact that it is a straightforward set of questions that are answerable by yes or no. It entails a lower margin of error, considering the patients will not have much to think about as they fill-up the form.

What is it about the GDS that indicates it is specific to depression?

A specific indication that the geriatric depression scale is specific to depression (aside from the disorder’s name in the title, of course) is the way the questions have been phrased in the questionnaire. To reiterate, there may be a few other self-report questionnaires that a mental health professional can employ pre-diagnosis. However, GDS’s reliability is impeccable; that’s why they continue to use it.

What is the GDS test?

The GDS test is a written form of examination that mental health professionals use to screen depression among their patients. The typical structure of the GDS questionnaire consists of 30 questions that aim to gauge your absolute emotions. It is not too complicated to use either, considering you only have to indicate yes or no on the paper. This can be especially helpful for much older patients.

What does GDS stand for?

GDS is the acronym for geriatric depression scale, a screening test that psychologists and psychiatrists use to determine if their patients have depression. J.A. Yesavage created the long-form in 1982 with some colleagues, while the short form was in 1986.

What is the Cornell Depression Scale?

The Cornell Depression Scale is another self-report examination for geriatric patients who have already been diagnosed with dementia beforehand. The test does not usually take more than 20 minutes under the same certified nursing assistant (CNA). 

Based on the copy of the Cornell Depression Scale that we found online, it consists of 19 questions, which are to be answered by 0, 1, or 2. The highest number indicates that the patient experiences what’s mentioned on the questionnaire severely, while the lowest number means that they may not experience it at all. If the patient’s answer is challenging to evaluate, the CNA needs to write down the letter “a.”

If it turns out that the patient has scored 12 out of 19 or more, they most likely have depression.

What is the global deterioration scale?

The Global Deterioration Scale, which also uses “GDS” as an acronym, refers to the seven stages of cognitive dysfunction that people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may exhibit. This scale is technically more for the caregivers than the patients, considering the former need guidance on how to handle the latter better. 

When you go from stages 1-3, it means that the patient may only be slightly forgetful. When they reach stage 5, though, it means that they can no longer live on their own.

What are the seven stages of dementia?

  • Stage 1: You will see no signs of dementia at all.
  • Stage 2: You may experience forgetfulness, but you may charge it to aging.
  • Stage 3: Your forgetfulness may become more prominent, as well as speech and performance difficulties.
  • Stage 4: This is the early onset of dementia. During this stage, the doctor may be able to diagnose you.
  • Stage 5: The symptoms may have lasted for at least four years and gotten so severe that you require nursing assistance.
  • Stage 6: This is when you may start forgetting your family and friends. 
  • Stage 7: At this terminal stage, you may not be able to do anything – not even chew or lift a finger, thus making you entirely dependent on a caregiver.
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What is the Dementia Rating Scale?

The Dementia Rating Scale (DRS) is a famous screening tool for dementia that consists of five subscales (i.e., Attention, Conceptualization, Construction, Initiation/Perseveration (I/P), and Memory).

What is the most useful screening test for dementia?

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is one of the most helpful screening tests for dementia (and Alzheimer’s disease). The caregiver may refer to a set of questionnaires and ask mundane questions to the patients regarding the date or location, for instance, or make them repeat sentences or identify objects.

How quickly does dementia progress?

The progression of dementia mostly depends on the individual. Sometimes, it may happen so fast that the patient and their loved ones may not prepare for it. Other times, it takes years before the symptoms manifest.

How is the clinical dementia rating scale scored?

The clinic dementia rating (CDR) scale is scored by assessing six different areas one by one. The healthcare professional would use a 0-5-point scale, with the lowest number indicating the patient’s mildest effect. After that, they will tabulate all the scores and assess how the person is doing overall.

Final Thoughts

I still have a lot to be thankful for despite dealing with depression for most of my life. I’m grateful for my family, who never left my side during my darkest hours. I’m thankful to the counselors and psychologists who continued to guide me towards the right path. Most of all, I’m grateful to God for letting me get back on my feet whenever I fall.