BackgroundFamily members often play important roles in the lives of depressed older men and frequently attend primary care visits with their loved ones, yet surprisingly little is known about how to most effectively engage and include family members in depression treatment. However, including family in depression treatment may be difficult due to several factors, such as depression stigma and family conflicts. The objective of this study was to describe challenges in engaging family members in older men's depression treatment and potential strategies to overcome those challenges.
MethodsA cross-sectional, qualitative descriptive interview study was conducted in a safety-net, Federally Qualified Health Center in California's Central Valley. A total of 37 stakeholders were recruited, including 15 depressed older (i.e. age ≥ 60) men, 12 family members, and 10 clinic staff. Depressed men were identified through mail outreach, waiting room screening, and referral. Depressed men identified family members who were later approached to participate. We also recruited a purposeful sample of clinic staff. Interviews explored stakeholder perspectives on family involvement in men's depression treatment as part of a primary care intervention. Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide, tape-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and translated if the interview was conducted in Spanish.
ResultsFour themes were identified representing core challenges: engaging men at the right time; preserving men's sense of autonomy; managing privacy concerns; and navigating family tensions. Stakeholders also provided practical suggestions and advice about how each of these challenges might be addressed.
ConclusionsWhile engaging family is a promising approach to strengthen depression care for older men in primary care settings, several potential challenges exist. Family- centered depression intervention development and clinical practice need to anticipate these challenges and to develop approaches and guidelines to address them.