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Depression is always an illness of the relatives. They suffer like the patients close to them – only differently. With a new online offer called “Family Coach Depression,” the AOK wants to help relatives of those affected recognize depression in old age and support the sufferers.


According to studies, 17 percent of older people over 75 are affected by depressive symptoms. Among residents of nursing homes, it is even up to 50 percent. “It is also little known that the suicide rate is by far the highest among older people,” says Carola Reimann, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the AOK Federal Association. It is about sensitizing people in the environment of those affected to the signs of depression in old age, informing them about treatment options, and supporting them with helpful tips in overcoming the disease together.


Depression in old age: Questions that relatives often ask themselves

The “Family Coach Depression” can be used anonymously and free of charge by anyone interested and answers, for example, the following questions that relatives often ask themselves:

· What are signs of depression in old age?

· How do you approach a family member that you suspect depression?

· How can relatives deal with it when the sick person rejects their support offers?

· What are self-help groups?

· What mental stress is associated with the corona pandemic?

· Should people with depression be encouraged to exercise?


“Family Coach Depression”: Five training areas

The “Family Coach Depression” consists of five training areas that can be used independently. You can start with the area that interests you the most:

1. Depression and everyday life

 Here you will find essential tips for dealing with depression and what you can do if you have typical symptoms.

2. Self-

 Care Here, you will learn to take care of yourself and deal with complicated feelings helpfully.

3. Strengthen the relationship

 A good relationship makes many things more manageable. That’s why you’ll find out here how you can stay connected – despite depression.

4. What do I need to know?

 Here you can get information about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression from the psychotherapist Elisabeth Schramm from the University Hospital Freiburg.

5. Depression in old age

You will learn what needs to be considered, especially with older people affected, and how contented aging can be achieved.

Old depressed people rarely seek professional help on their own

“Especially with depression in old age, it is often the case that those affected would not seek professional help on their own. That’s why it’s imperative to involve and inform relatives,” says Elisabeth Schramm, a psychologist at the University Hospital in Freiburg. She developed the new module “Depression in Old Age” in collaboration with Michael Hüll, the chief physician at the Geriatric Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Clinic in Emmendingen. “It’s about adapting to changes again and again in old age – be it physical limitations, retirement, the loss of important tasks, or saying goodbye to long-term companions,” says Schramm.

Depression in old age: Unfavorable for other diseases

Depressive disorders in old age can have serious consequences. “They are associated with a loss of quality of life, cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of suicide – and they often also have an unfavorable effect on the course of existing physical illnesses,” says the Freiburg psychotherapist Schramm. In addition, the symptoms of depression sometimes also appear old, mistaken for incipient dementia.

The online coach provides security and know-how for relatives.

“With our scientifically based program, we show how it is possible to strengthen the relationship with a relative who is suffering from depression, how to deal with crises, to support the patient and not to overwhelm oneself in this difficult situation,” explains Schramm “is based on the content of psycho-education courses, which can demonstrably reduce the burden on relatives, when imparting knowledge. “Psycho-education” (Latin-Greek “education/education of the soul”) is understood to mean the transfer of scientifically sound knowledge about mostly mental illnesses. Its goal is to impart knowledge and skills to patients, but also relatives and people close to them,

AOK: Online support for five clinical pictures

The new online offer on depression in old age is one of five modules within the comprehensive self-help program “Family Coach Depression,” which the AOK launched in 2018. There are four other online coaches from the AOK: the family coach care, the ADHD parent trainer, the online coach diabetes, and the family coach cancer.

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