Depression and Dementia: How to Detect and Manage It

We all feel sad from time to time and it’s normal to experience ups and downs dealing with the day-to-day challenges of life — even for those affected by dementia. But overwhelming feelings of sadness for an extended period of time, also known as depression, can cause health problems and negatively impact one’s ability to function in their daily lives.

Learn how to detect this condition in a loved one with dementia and how to manage it.

Depression Among Those With Dementia

While common, depression is not just a normal part of aging and often goes undiagnosed and untreated in older adults. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Experts estimate that up to 40% of people with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from significant depression.” With similar mental, physical and emotional effects as dementia, signs of depression may be less obvious in someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related disorders. Symptoms can include:

  • Memory difficulties
  • Personality changes
  • Physical aches or pain
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite and sleep problems

Diagnosis and Treatment

Fortunately, treatment is available and can greatly improve quality of life. If you suspect your loved one may be experiencing depression, have a medical professional – which can be your primary care provider or someone more specialized, such as psychiatrist, licensed professional counselor or psychologist – conduct an evaluation. This will give them more insight into whether depression is the culprit and the type, which can range from seasonal affective disorder to clinical depression and more.

Once diagnosed, your loved one may be prescribed an antidepressant medication to help reduce their symptoms. Other treatment options, depending on the stage of dementia and their cognitive ability, can also include talk therapy for individuals in the early to middle stages of dementia or sensitive listening for those in the later stagesmusic therapy and more.

In addition to professional treatment, your love one will need reassurance, social support and help rediscovering activities that once made them happy. Mood boosters like quality time with family, recreational activities, confidence-building tasks and more can positively impact your loved one’s depression while bringing joy and a sense of fulfillment to their lives.

Get Help

Identifying depression in individuals with dementia can be difficult, so it’s important to work with a professional if you feel your loved one may be affected. Be sure to consult with your physician and seek support from additional resources, like our free counselor-led groups or educational caregiver classes. Check out our calendar for upcoming offerings.