Depression in the Dementia Community

Matthew Ralph-Savage

March 5, 2021

Those who live with dementia and related degenerative diseases are faced with a daily struggle that can slowly erode their quality of life. Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease often lose their independence, face frustration when day-to-day activities become a struggle, and find themselves relying on caregivers and having a dramatic impact on the lives of those they love.

Symptoms of depression pose a challenge to the dementia community. The disease’s progression is slow and often develops over such a long timeframe that people living with dementia are often acutely aware of their cognitive decline. While those with this keen awareness in early stages of the disease often feel an emotional impact by its presence, studies have shown that level of awareness is not correlated to experiencing symptoms of depression. In fact, developing feelings of apathy, diminished self-esteem, and lethargy are universal in cases of dementia in either mild or advanced stages.

Luckily, for caregivers and for dementia patients, there are therapies that can support the accompanying symptoms of depression like loss of interest and diminished self-worth.

Combating Loneliness

One of the greatest unifying conditions that draws together dementia cases is isolation. The loneliness that comes with being in a late stage of life comes from waning energy and ability to connect with friends, old colleagues, and family. While this loneliness is able to be interrupted, loneliness is one of the leading risk factors of developing all-cause dementia.

As a caregiver or trusted loved one, there are things that you can do to help someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s:

  • *Call Frequently—*While it may seem obvious, the frequent and repetitious ritual of chatting with someone familiar is one of the best way to stave off loneliness.
  • *Talk About Emotions—*One of the best ways to help a loved one is through open communications about feelings. While it may be hard to bridge the generational divide, it’s important to get those with dementia accessing emotional processing and memories.
  • *Help Them Find Social Ties—*Just because your loved one with dementia isn’t a part of a club or group doesn’t mean they don’t want to be. And it certainly helps to have a steady social framework to help support cognitive function.

Staying Active

Movement of body and mind are some of the most crucial steps someone with dementia

can take to shoring up their fortitude against symptoms of depression. Being able to move one’s body naturally gets endorphins flowing and the body priming itself for holistic wellbeing. Take your loved one on a walk periodically. Not only do they get to spend time with their family, but they also create the energy and movement to keep them alert and present in the moment.

Mental activity is just as important. While most of those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s have some activity or other, it is immensely helpful to work with their hands and mind in order to keep connections alive and well. Sometimes it is merely the act of conquering one’s own lethargy and apathy that sets an individual on the path to providing strong therapies while living with dementia.