OBJECTIVE To determine the prevalence of depressive disorders and symptoms in patients with late-stage ALS, to identify possible risk and protective factors associated with depression, and to determine whether depression increases as death approaches. METHODS Semistructured interviews were conducted monthly with hospice-eligible patients with ALS and caregivers until the study endpoints of death or tracheostomy. Standardized measures were administered to assess depressive disorders and symptoms, hopelessness, spiritual beliefs, attitudes toward hastened death, quality of life, and related constructs. RESULTS Sixty-three percent of eligible patients were enrolled. Of the 80 participants, 17 were seen only once; the number of monthly assessments for the others ranged from 2 to 18. For the 53 patients who died, median interval between last assessment and death was 30 days. At study baseline, 81% had no depressive disorder, 10% had minor depression, and 9% had symptoms consistent with major depression. Diagnoses of depression were made on 16% of 369 monthly assessments. Fifty-seven percent of patients never had a depression diagnosis at any visit, and 8% were depressed at all visits. There was no trend toward increasing depression as death approached. Presumed protective factors including spiritual beliefs, spouse as care partner, financial situation, depression in caregiver, and hospice participation did not distinguish between those who were depressed and those who were not. CONCLUSIONS Results of multiple measures of depression and distress converged to indicate that major depression in people with late-stage ALS is rare, although transient depressive symptoms may occur, and depression does not generally increase as death approaches.