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The Link between Depression and Alzheimer’s Disease

By November 20, 2015Aging in Place

A strong link exists between Alzheimer’s Disease and depression and it is more widespread than previously thought. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s, depression may occur without the knowledge of loved ones or caregivers, even if they know the symptoms.

Identifying depression in a person suffering from Alzheimer’s can be difficult. Common symptoms, such as apathy, loss of interest in hobbies, social withdrawal, trouble concentrating, and impaired thinking are present. However, Alzheimer’s Disease makes it difficult for the patient to express these feelings because the disease robs them of the ability to speak in an articulate manner. Depression may cause some of the more aggressive symptoms of Alzheimer’s to be less severe.

This can be especially confusing when trying to diagnose whether or not the patient is suffering from depression. It is best for the patient and the people who care for him/her if aggression is reduced and outbursts are controlled. However, if these behaviors are reduced due to underlying depression, that is not a long term solution as the depression brings its own health issues.

Diagnosis of depression in a person with Alzheimer’s is best done through an evaluation by a medical professional. The side effects of some medications can produce symptoms similar to depression and a doctor needs to “decode” those signs and determine the best treatments.

For a drug-­free option, support groups can be very helpful, particularly for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Group therapy can be a great option for those who prefer to take an active role in helping themselves. Counseling is another option for seniors who may not be comfortable in groups.

Caregivers and loved ones can also help to improve the life of someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

  • Ensuring a predictable daily routine is a good first step. Alzheimer’s removes understanding of variables, and the same tasks completed at the same time in the same way is reassuring to the patient.
  • Identifying the most ideal time of day for different tasks is paramount to success in carrying them out. For example, bathing and other daily activities that may be challenging should be done when the patient is most rested and calm.
  • A list of activities, people, or places that the person with Alzheimer’s enjoys should be kept handy. These can be scheduled frequently in order to keep joy in the life of a senior.
  • Regular exercise is a must as well. The morning is the best time for this, when the patient has the most energy, and probably the most ability to move.
  • Whether depression affects a senior with Alzheimer’s, their spouse or family member caregivers, there is help and support available. No one should go it alone, especially with the complex and progressive manner of Alzheimer’s Disease. Only with help can caregivers provide care over the long term and avoid suffering adverse health consequences as a result.

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