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Objective: While there is evidence that depression training can improve the knowledge of staff in residential care facilities, there is an absence of research determining whether such training translates into practice change. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of staff training and the introduction of a protocol for routine screening and referral for depression on the numbers of residents detected and referred by care staff for further assessment. Method: A cluster randomized controlled design was used to compare the referral rates for residents in seven facilities randomly allocated into one of three conditions: staff training, staff training plus a screening and referral protocol and wait-list control. Participants were 216 aged care residents (M age = 87 years), who agreed to a 12-month audit of their facility file. Results: Staff training on its own did not increase the rate of referrals for depression; however, staff training plus the screening protocol and referral guidelines did lead to a significant increase in the number of residents who were referred to a medical practitioner for further assessment. However, this increase in care staff referrals did not result in substantial changes in the treatment prescribed for residents. Conclusion: Staff training in depression, supplemented with a protocol for routine screening and guidelines on referring residents, can improve pathways to care. However, strategies to overcome barriers to appropriate subsequent treatment of depression are required for staff-focused initiatives to translate into better outcomes for depressed older adults. Methodological limitations of this study are discussed.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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