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Dementia and Depression

It’s not unusual to find that someone who has one of the dementias also suffers from depression to some degree.  Some sources say that as many as 40% of those with dementia also show signs of significant depression.  This can certainly affect the person’s quality of life and ability to function.

Diagnosing depression in the dementia patient is difficult, in part because they often don’t look or act like other depressed persons.  The depression may not last as long or be as severe, and the depressed dementia patient may have trouble expressing their feelings of hopelessness, sadness, guilt, etc.  In addition, the severity of the depression may increase or decrease over time.  For this reason, it is important to consult with a psychologist who is familiar with geriatric persons, and especially those with cognitive impairments.

One of the things that a doctor will need to evaluate is whether these symptoms may actually be related to medications and their side effects.  Many older people take numerous medications, and can supplement these with over-the-counter remedies and herbal supplements.  It should be deteremined whether or not some of these may be interacting with each other in a negative way.

Treatments for depression in persons with dementia include both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical remedies.  It is always better to avoid prescribing additional drugs, but sometimes that just isn’t possible.  There are several good medications on the market that are especially beneficial for the older person, or one with dementia.  The patient’s doctor can help to determine this.

Non-pharmaceutical remedies for depression include:

– Keeping to a predictable routine for activities such as bathing, and scheduling these things at a time when the person is at his best, to avoid causing increased stress

– Scheduling frequent visits to favorite places or from well-liked persons

– Encouraging regular exercise, particularly in the morning

– Acknowledging the person’s sadness or frustration, and express hopes that things will get better soon

-Look for small successes and celebrate these things

– Look for ways for the person to contribute to daily family life, even in small ways, and celebrate these moments.  Be sure that the person knows that he is an important person who contributes positively to the family, and is loved and appreciated for that.

– Provide favorite foods and inspirational activities as a way of nurturing and soothing the person

– Be sure the person is told, often, that he will not be abandoned

– Consider finding a support group or a therapist to provide additional assistance

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