Unfortunately, depression is common among individuals living with Alzheimer’s, especially those in the early and middle stages. In fact, experts believe that up to 40 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from significant depression.
Currently, there is no test or questionnaire to detect depression in someone with dementia. And, because dementia can cause many of the same symptoms of depression, it is often hard to detect. Diagnosis requires a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.
There are many ways to treat depression in someone with Alzheimer’s, including non-medication and medication approaches. The most common treatment involves a combination of medicine, counseling, and gradual reconnection to activities and people that bring happiness. As with anyone suffering from depression, simply telling the person to “cheer up,” “snap out of it” or “try harder” is seldom helpful. Depressed people with or without Alzheimer’s, are rarely able to make themselves better by sheer will, or without lots of support, reassurance and professional help.
As we’ve often said before, once you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, get your care team in place. This includes friends and family members who can help you out, but also medical providers, specifically a gerontologist who understands both how depression can affect a person’s psychological well-being and how an older person’s system metabolizes medication.
We understand far too well that this disease really takes a toll on both the person with the illness and the loved ones caring for them. Don’t discount the help that medication, managed correctly, can provide. While we are opposed to over medicating in any environment, we often see great improvement in quality of like with the use of carefully monitored medication for depression or anxiety.
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