Supporting frail older people with depression and anxiety: a qualitative study
Rachael Frost,Pushpa Nair, Su Aw, Rebecca L. Gould, Kalpa Kharicha, Marta Buszewicz & Kate Walters
Objectives: Depression and anxiety are common in later life, particularly when people are frail. This leads to reduced quality of life, faster decline in physical health and increased health/social care use. Available treatments are commonly not tailored to people with frailty. We explored frail older peoples’ experiences of depression and/or anxiety and how services could be adapted to their needs. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 28 older people in the UK purposively sampled for practice location and severity of frailty and anxiety/depression. We asked about symptoms, interactions with physical health, help-seeking, treatments and what might help in future. We audio-recorded and transcribed interviews, using thematic analysis to inductively derive themes. Results: Frail older people had low expectations of their wellbeing at this point in life due to multiple physical health issues and so anxiety and mild depressive symptoms were normalised. There was a particular reluctance and uncertainty regarding help-seeking for anxiety. Treatments were considered appropriate where they aligned with coping skills developed over their lifetime, and facilitated independence and problem-solving skills. Most older people felt their knowledge of mental health was limited and relied upon information about and endorsement of therapies from an expert. This was usually their GP, but access was often problematic. Online methods of accessing information and therapies were not popular. Conclusion: Mental health support for frail older people needs to address late-life anxieties as well as depression, account for physical health issues, align with older people’s need for independence and facilitate coping skills.