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Hearing a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease creates an emotional and psychological upheaval for a person and his or her family.
Some thoughts a newly diagnosed patient might have are:
- What does the future hold for me and my family?
- Will I be able to continue working?
- Can I keep driving?
- Will my spouse, children and grandchildren understand and support me?
- Will my friends want to keep seeing me?
These fears and worries can lead to depression.
Scientists are not sure of the exact relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and depression. The biological changes caused by Alzheimer’s may intensify a predisposition to depression. On the other hand, depression may increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of the symptoms common to both Alzheimer’s and depression include:
- Loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities and hobbies
- Social withdrawal
- Memory problems
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Impaired concentration
With so much overlap in symptoms, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two, especially since they often occur together. A thorough physical exam and psychological evaluation can be helpful in making a diagnosis.
It is clear that depression has a detrimental impact on the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Depression can lead to:
- Worsening cognitive decline
- Greater disability involving activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Increased dependence on caregivers
- Decreased socialization
How to Combat Depression
People who have both Alzheimer’s and depression may find it easier to cope with the changes caused by Alzheimer’s when they feel less depressed. What steps can be taken to combat depression?
- Keep socializing. Continue to participate in activities with your family and friends.
- Engage in regular physical exercise or, at minimum, take a daily walk, which has been found to improve your mood.
- Join a support group to connect with other people with the same condition, find inspiration and brainstorm solutions to new challenges as they arise.
- Seek group and/or individual counseling if you notice memory impairment or have received a diagnosis. Click here to learn about AFC’s outpatient behavioral health services.
- See your doctor to talk about anti-depressant medications that might be right for you.