Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, can often lead to Depression in older adults. In many cases, older adults become depressed when they realize that their memory and ability to function is not as strong as it used to be. Together, Depression and Alzheimer’s can cause other symptoms. Many who are suffering from this illness do not want to go places or see people anymore, their outlook and quality of life can suffer. Alzheimer’s disease and Depression have many symptoms that are alike. It can be hard to tell the difference between them. If you think that Depression is a problem for your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, talk to their doctor.
Examples of symptoms common to both Depression and dementia include:
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Social withdrawal
- Trouble concentrating
- Impaired thinking
In addition, the cognitive impairment experienced by people with Alzheimer’s often makes it difficult for them to articulate their sadness, hopelessness, guilt and other feelings associated with Depression.
Depression in Alzheimer’s doesn’t always look like Depression in people without Alzheimer’s. Here are some ways that Depression in a person with Alzheimer’s may be different:
- May be less severe
- May not last as long and symptoms may come and go
- The person with Alzheimer’s may be less likely to talk about or attempt suicide
For Depression (without Alzheimer’s) The following signs and symptoms must be present most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
Several options are available to treat people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Depression:
Antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are usually the first antidepressants chosen for people who have Depression and Alzheimer’s. These medications have a low risk of side effects and drug interactions.
However, these medications may not be as effective at treating Depression with Alzheimer’s as they are at treating Depression alone.
Support groups and counseling. Support groups and professional counseling may help people with Depression in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, before their communication skills deteriorate.
Decreasing social isolation. Continuing to participate in activities with other people may decrease depressive symptoms. It may also be helpful to find ways for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to contribute to family activities and let them know you appreciate their contribution.