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Dealing With Depression And Dementia

  • Posted by:
  • Admin
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  • Dementia, Depression, Anxiety
  • Posted date:
  • 08-09-2021
Dealing With Depression And Dementia

How do anxiety and depression affect a person with dementia?

Major depression and anxiety can show themselves in a variety of different ways in a person with dementia. A person with anxiety, depression and dementia will often be agitated and pace up and down or fidget restlessly. If the person with dementia and depression lives with or is around other people, they could follow them around looking for reassurance. They may even disappear and go to a place where they feel safe. 

Other factors and depressive symptoms associated with severe or mild cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's and dementia, include disturbed sleep or sleeping excessively. 

They may also find themselves eating very little or too much. People with depression and dementia can also become very withdrawn from other people and could even experience physical pain as a part of their combined conditions. 

It is also common for a person with both depression and dementia to become increasingly apathetic. They appear to be retreating into themselves, finding no interest in the outside world or the things they used to enjoy doing.

Many of these symptoms are present in those with just Alzheimer's and dementia; depression and anxiety can often be overlooked.

Conversely, the early symptoms of dementia and memory loss can often be mistaken for depression and anxiety. Things such as lack of concentration, disturbed sleep, changes in appetite and mood can all be misdiagnosed as depression. This is very common in younger working-age people who are not expected to develop dementia, and where depression and anxiety are most commonly found. 

What Are The Needs Of A Person With Dementia?

Symptoms of depression

It can be very difficult to diagnose someone who has dementia with depression, given they can both present very similar symptoms. Common symptoms that are present in both dementia and depression include:

Loss of interest in hobbies or activities

Socially withdrawn

Developing apathy


Trouble with concentration

Impaired thinking


Given that Alzheimer's disease impairs a person's ability to communicate properly, depression in people with dementia may make it difficult to articulate feelings of depression and anxiety with others, including family members. These feelings can range from feeling sad to hopeless to even guilt. Sometimes depression in a person with Alzheimer's or dementia can look different, for instance:

Their depression may be less severe.

They may not talk so openly about or try to attempt suicide.

Their depression may only be short-term, recurring now and then.

Those who care for people with Alzheimer's and dementia must lookout for any symptoms or signs that the person they care for could show. 

These should be immediately discussed with their patient's primary doctor to be accurately diagnosed and given the right treatment and symptom management quickly. 

Receiving the right advice and treatments can boost people's well-being and improve their quality of life.

Diagnosing depression with Dementia 

There is no "one simple" trick to determine whether a person has depression or not. A diagnosis of depression needs to come through an accurate and complete evaluation by a trained medical professional. This is especially important, given that some of the side effects of drugs used to treat dementia and the symptoms of depression can appear very similar. 

There are formal guidelines for diagnosing someone living with dementia with depression, established by The National Institute of Mental Health. While they are majoritively similar to standard depression diagnoses, they place less concern on verbal communication and pay closer attention to voluntary social isolation and reduced verbal communication. 

Evaluations for depression include:

Systematic reviewing the client's medical history

Discussions with family members, friends or other people who know the client well

A thorough physical examination

Given how difficult it can be to diagnose someone with depression when they already have dementia, it can often be helpful to consult a geriatric psychiatrist beforehand. 

This form of psychiatry focuses on older adults' mental health and can shed valuable light on their conditions. If you feel that your loved one or someone you care for might need a geriatric psychiatrist, you can ask a doctor for a referral. 

As a basic criterion, for someone with dementia to also be diagnosed with depression, they must show a depressed mood, feeling sad, discouraged, or hopeless, and a decreased pleasure or interest in usual activities. Alongside these, they must also show two or more of these symptoms for at least two weeks:

Social isolation

Social withdrawal

Altered appetite unrelated to other medical conditions

Disrupted sleeping pattern

Agitation or slow reaction and movement

Low self-esteem, hopelessness, unprompted feelings of guilt

Low energy and fatigue

Thoughts of death

Suicidal plans or attempts


Treating depression

Receiving the appropriate treatment for depression can significantly improve people's quality of life. The most widely used treatments involve a combination of counselling, medication and steady reconnection with the activities that the patient enjoys. Attempting to get the person with dementia and depression to snap out of it or "cheer up" is detrimental and never helpful. 

People living with depression, whether they have Alzheimer's disease or not, can very rarely make themselves better through simple willpower. However, with the right support and professional guidance, they can begin to improve their mental health. 



Attending support groups can be an incredibly helpful way to deal with mental health issues, especially early-stage dementia groups where people are aware of their diagnosis and wish to take an active role in combating it and helping others.

On the other hand, private counselling is also an excellent option for those uncomfortable sharing in group therapy. 



Having a scheduled daily routine can help bring someone a sense of normalcy. Personally tailoring a person's activities to times where they are easiest to perform is the best option.



Helping the client to exercise regularly can be significantly beneficial. Exercising in the mornings can help people to feel energised and ready for the day.



Listing activities that people like to enjoy, friends they like to see and places they like to visit can be very helpful. Once this list is compiled, schedule these activities more often to be among people they like and improve their quality of life. 


Acknowledging feelings

Recognising and acknowledging when a person feels sad or frustrated can help them better control their mental health. Reassurance that these feelings will not last and they will soon feel better can be very comforting.



Celebrating successes and progress, whether in personal activities or exercise, can help boost people's self-esteem.



Encouraging people to contribute to their families or communities can give them a renewed sense of purpose. Recognising these contributions and acknowledging their usefulness is just as crucial.


Love, Respect and Appreciation

Ensuring that people feel loved and appreciated is another way to foster greater self-esteem. Respecting them as an essential part of the family is the best attitude to give them.



Providing people that have Depression and Dementia the food that they relish will enable them to begin taking part in enjoyable activities that can boost their moods incredibly. 



Making sure that the person with dementia does not feel abandoned is crucial. Reassuring them that they are not alone and can count on you improves their mental health and trust in you.

Medication to treat depression in Alzheimer's and Dementia 

Alongside the previously mentioned methods to deal with depressive disorders and dementia, several types of medication can be used in combination with them to improve people's quality of life. Appropriately named, these medicines are collectively known as antidepressants, and there are many available to those suffering from depression. 

Specific antidepressants are used for those who have both depression and dementia. These antidepressants are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs. 

These medicines are favoured because there is little chance that they will interfere with other medications that someone might be taking. Many people with Alzheimer's or dementia may already take several other medicines, so these SSRIs are very useful. 

When arranging new medication for someone with dementia, it is always prudent to check with their primary doctor. The person and their doctor will need to weigh the risks and benefits against one another when selecting new medicine. Their doctor should prepare them for any necessary monitoring once they start their new course of medicine. 

If you have questions about dealing with depression and dementia then please use the buttons provided below.

We hope this information has been useful to you.

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