Dementia and Depression by Elaine Wilson, LCSW, CCM, Aging Life Care Professional™
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, up to 40 % of people with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis experience depression, especially during the early and middle stages of the disease (www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-depression.asDementia/depression.html). However, depression can occur throughout the disease progression, as outlined in an article written for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (www.alzfdn.org/AboutDementia/depression.html). Depression can also result in what may seem like a progression of cognitive impairment compared with baseline, but is actually related to the depressed mood. Regardless of the dementing illness, depression is a serious, but treatable condition. Diagnosis is made by a medical professional, following a thorough examination to rule out other reasons for the symptoms noted. It is important for family dementia caregivers to contact their person’s medical professional if signs and symptoms of depression are noticed or suspected.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and the Alzheimer’s Association websites point out that although depression symptoms often include difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in activities, sleep issues, restlessness, and withdrawal from others, these symptoms are also seen in someone with a dementia diagnosis. Because those living with Alzheimer’s disease are often unable to easily express their feelings of sadness or hopelessness, diagnosis by a medical professional is needed and may include obtaining information about increased irritability and social isolation from the primary caregiver and involved family members.
In addition to talking with their person’s medical professional, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests caregivers set up a daily routine, scheduling more difficult tasks at their person’s best time of day, and regularly set up activities that their person enjoys. Playing uplifting music enjoyed during early adulthood may assist in linking to fond memories. Caregivers can address their person’s sadness when noted, while still helping to convey a sense of hopefulness. As caregivers help their person take part in daily activities and tasks, it is important to keep in mind their loved one’s ability level to avoid frustration. It is also helpful for caregivers to let their person know how appreciated and loved they are, providing reassurance as needed. Try using phrases such as, “I am here” and “I will keep you safe”.
In addition to consulting with their loved one’s medical professional, consider participation in Community activities of interest that provide accommodations for both family dementia caregivers and their loved ones. Choices in Senior Care offers a monthly Family Dementia Caregiver Support Group (2nd Thursday of the month from 1:30-3:00 PM) with a concurrent Cognitive Stimulation session for their loved one, promoting social interaction and activities for enjoyable involvement. We also offer our Back in the Day Memory and Music Café (4th Thursday of the month starting at 1:30 PM), where dementia caregivers and their loved ones can enjoy music from the 40’s and 50’s, reminisce, and participate in “sing-alongs” in a festive social atmosphere.
With ongoing family support and professional assistance, dementia caregivers can guide theirs loved ones toward an improved quality of life.