Recognizing Depression in a Senior with Alzheimer's

Sunrise Senior Living  |  August 6, 2020
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Most of us are familiar with depression and likely know someone who suffers from it. The American Psychiatric Association defines the condition as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” With proper medical intervention, it is often treatable.

But what happens when an adult with Alzheimer’s disease, or another form of memory loss, also develops depression? Experts believe as many as 40 percent of adults with dementia may also be living with depression. Because the symptoms of depression often mimic those of many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult for family caregivers to detect a difference.

Alzheimer’s and Depression

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, depression in those with Alzheimer’s is most common in the early and middle stages of the disease. As the older adult struggles to communicate and to accept that they are living with a memory impairment, it’s easy to understand why. Although depression typically isn’t as serious in people with some type of dementia, it still impacts their quality of life.

Here are a few signs of depression to look for in an older loved one with Alzheimer’s or another type of memory loss:

  • Indifference
  • Lethargy
  • Easily tearful
  • Self-isolating
  • Short-tempered

While these can occur in any adult with Alzheimer’s, or other type of memory loss, they may also be signs of depression. If you are noticing them in your loved one, call their primary care physician. The doctor can help make a determination and create a plan for treating it.

Protecting Mental Health in a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

If you are trying to create an engaging environment for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia, to prevent them from developing a mild or serious case of depression, these tips may be useful:

1. Spread joy: Celebrate small things in big ways. A red bird in a tree in the backyard. Flowers on the patio beginning to bloom. Joy can be infectious, so make sure to share it with your family member.

2. Live with purpose: Plan meaningful days. As Alzheimer’s slowly robs a senior of some abilities, it’s essential to focus on those tasks they can still complete independently. By organizing meaningful daily activities, the older adult can feel a sense of pride and a boost to self-esteem.

3. Engage in fitness: Exercise is a stress-buster at all stages of life. Find a few exercises your senior loved one enjoys and work those into your schedule on a regular basis.

4. Talk about it: Help the senior connect with peers. If your family member is able, especially during the early to middle stages of their disease, arrange for them to talk with others who have Alzheimer’s. They may benefit from this experience.

5. Ensure good sleep: Adults with Alzheimer’s often struggle with sleep issues. If your loved one has a difficult time sleeping, ask their primary care doctor for help. Sleep plays a key role in physical and mental well-being.

Memory Care at Sunrise

With a commitment to focusing on the individual, the memory care program at Sunrise Senior Living allows residents to enjoy their best quality of life. If you are considering a move for someone in your life who has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, we invite you to call the nearest Sunrise memory care community. One of our experienced team members will be happy to answer questions and share more information!


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