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Let There Be Light

By Erika Hoffman, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 5)

The LIGHT Program uses the Geriatric Depression Scale to screen patients and start a dialogue with them about their feelings. Fifteen questions comprise the survey. They inquire about the personís energy level, satisfaction with life, and coping mechanisms for disappointments.

If a senior tests positive for depression, that patient can receive psychotherapy in the same physicianís office and also schedule follow-up screenings in the same office at three months, six months, and a year. Ms. Veronica Poklemba (APRN,CS-P) points out that elderly patients donít react well to the idea of a psychiatristís office. Treating them for their depression where they receive their primary care is more likely to be successful. Anybody identified as depressed is offered treatment and if transportation to a clinic is an issue, a therapist can go into the home of the referred patient. Project LIGHT is funded by a grant, but Ms. Poklemba feels that a family doctor could rent office space to a mental health specialist just as some rent out office space to cardiologists, dermatologists or other specialists.

The toolkit supplied by Project LIGHT, containing stickers, posters, brochures, CDís, and lists of mental health providers, benefits the physician as well as the patient. Many physicians ask their own questions regarding depression and donít need to pull out the supplied list. They have appropriate questions. The goal is: screening of the elderly for depression. The primary care doctor is not expected to treat the patient for his/her depression, but the idea is that he can ID the personís problem easily and then refer the patient for more in-depth screening. Because Ms. Poklemba is tied into the practice, her paperwork goes back to the primary care doctor, and he can read her conclusions which she leaves in the patientís medical record. She, too, has an accurate record of the patientís health problems and doesnít need to rely solely on what the senior may or may not tell her about physical problems.ďI make sure the doctor knows if I find something,Ē she states.

Ms. Poklemba screens the patient verbally. For example, a question reads: ďHas there been any change in your usual activities?ĒShe knows to add ďin the last month.Ē If not, elderly patients might relate changes in the last ten years! Veronica phrases it in a way that makes sense to the elderly person. In addition, she studies their non-verbal clues, such as a confused expression. Folks in the beginning stages of dementia are with it enough to know if they are experiencing depression, and therapy will help them. They can sit and discuss their worries. However, if suffering from severe dementia, the senior cannot benefit from therapy, but sometimes taking anti-depressants is helpful.


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