They often refer to caring for someone with dementia as “the long, sad goodbye.” The reason being is that you are slowly losing pieces of your loved one as the disease progresses. It can be a very challenging experience and one that can take a lot out of you the caregivers. Here are a few tips to help you manage your grief while saying goodbye.
On the surface, David seems like he is doing fine. He has been married for 42 years, retired for seven years, has three children, six grandchildren, a dog named Skip, and likes to golf on Tuesday mornings. David was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease two years ago, however, and things are changing. David is noticing the changes, and he’s hoping that other people don’t notice.
David has more trouble keeping track of his location on the golf course and finds himself forgetting names and appointments during the week. These changes, and the feelings of shame associated with them, have had a negative effect on David’s mood. He has become more irritable, has started to avoid social events and friends, and has lost interest in activities he used to enjoy.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression is a common and sometimes serious condition resulting in a depressed mood, a loss of interest in activities, and feelings of sadness. Depression can be mild or severe and can last months or years. Depression tends to be a persistent problem, caused by complex factors related to biological, physiological, or social sources of distress or imbalance. Commonly, depression will affect a person’s sleep, energy level, appetite, and may include thoughts of suicide.
People who are depressed often feel that they will never get better, and nothing can help them. Feelings of sadness, loss or anger are typical, and irritability is a common symptom. Depression also changes brain chemistry and alters activity in certain neural circuits in the brain.
MEMORY DISORDERS AND SUSCEPTIBILITY TO DEPRESSION
For David, his depression may be related to his diagnosis of memory loss. Feelings of fear, loss of control, anticipating the worst, and fears of shame, judgment, and withdrawing from social support can all contribute to feeling down. In addition, increased stress contributes to both the memory loss worsening, and the depression itself. Depression can be a vicious cycle of feeling low and avoiding support. It’s well documented that depression is a risk factor for memory loss, and memory loss is a risk factor for depression. Treating depression is an important step to keeping memories and improving the quality of life and mood for people with memory loss.
HOW THE MIND & MEMORY PROGRAM CAN HELP
At the Mind & Memory Program at Mission Hospital, David can find ways to help de-stress, cope, and stay mentally and physically active. With a healthcare program personally tailored for him, he can participate in group therapy and improve his mood and social relationships in a supportive environment.
Offered on an outpatient basis on the Mission Viejo campus of Mission Hospital in Southern California, the Mind & Memory Program provides a structured program of therapy. The first of its kind in the country, this program is designed to address the special needs of individuals with memory concerns who in addition suffer from some type of mental health issue, such as dementia and depression, PTSD and dementia and bipolar disorder and memory loss. For more information or to schedule a pre-screening appointment, please call (949) 364-4203 or visit our website.
This post was written by Cheryl Alvarez, Psy.D and was featured in the January 2019 issue of Sorbet Magazine.