Alzheimer’s Disease and Depression

May 26, 2021

Seven percent of the world’s older population, including about 6 million Americans over 65, experience depression, making it the top mental health concern for seniors. Depression commonly develops alongside the aging process and can often be attributed to loneliness, loss of a spouse or loved one, or chronic health problems.

And, if you have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s, you might be surprised to know how common it is for them to experience some form of depression, along with forgetfulness and other dementia symptoms. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, experts believe that up to 40% of people with Alzheimer’s suffer from significant depression. Unfortunately, those living with the disease don’t always receive treatment for depression as it often goes undiagnosed or is mistaken for the effects of ongoing medical issues and medications.

Depression is most common during the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s. It is less severe in those with dementia than those without, and symptoms may ebb and flow. However, failing to identify it will eventually negatively impact their quality of life, interpersonal relationships, and treatments for pre-existing health issues. It is imperative, as a caregiver or loved one, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression in those living with Alzheimer’s:

  • Lethargy
  • Apathy
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Isolation
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and favorite pastimes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or loss of energy

The signs and symptoms of depression are very similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, so it can be challenging to identify and diagnose. If you believe that your loved one may be experiencing depression, please consult their doctor. Medical professionals can conduct a thorough evaluation and may even refer you to a geriatric psychiatrist. They may prescribe medication or suggest a non-pharmacological approach, which would include:

  • Support Groups
  • Planning and sticking to a regular daily routine
  • Daily exercise
  • Finding ways that your loved one can contribute to the family and receive praise
  • Engaging them in high-interest activities

If you feel overwhelmed by caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s and depression, consider a senior living community with a highly skilled Memory Care program. These communities provide opportunities for those living with dementia to strengthen their cognitive capabilities and cultivate meaningful social interactions while improving their mental health.

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