"Researchers have long known that depression and dementia go hand in hand. Yet they've debated over whether the two conditions simply share common causes, or whether depression is an early sign of dementia". Both theories appear to be true, says an article published by the Harvard Medical School.
The Alzheimer's Society of Canada says that about 40 - 50 % of people with dementia experience depression at some point. Depression can make the symptoms of dementias worse. For example, depression can cause increased forgetfulness, confusion, and anxiety. The symptoms of depression can be similar to symptoms of dementia. Therefore, it is often difficult to identify depression in people with dementia.
Most people feel low or down from time to time, but this is not the same as being depressed. Depression is a condition that lasts for longer periods. The signs of depression are slightly different in older adults—and many of them can be wrongly attributed to memory loss or an illness. Depression is often diagnosed in the early stages of dementia, but it may come and go, and may be present at any stage. Depression is also common among caregivers supporting a person with dementia. Here's a list of some of the signs you need to lookout for:
- feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- lack of energy; fatigue
- irritability, increased agitation and restlessness
- loss of interest / pleasure in activities and hobbies
- difficulty concentrating or remembering
- problems in making simple decisions
- trouble sleeping
- appetite loss or overeating
- aches and pains that don't go away, and appear to have no apparent physical cause
- thoughts of death and suicide
If you've noticed these signs in a loved one, or are experiencing them yourself, you should consult your doctor. It is important to differentiate and diagnose depression in people with dementia because even though dementia is irreversible, depression may respond to treatment.
For most people, diagnoses like dementia and depression change life in a way that it's never the same again. At in4MED, we can make this stressful time easier by providing you with information about your diagnosis, connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
Depression in Older Adults: a guide for seniors and their families https://ccsmh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ccsmh_depressionBooklet.pdf
Living with dementia - Depression https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/Living-with-dementia/Understanding-behaviour/Depression
Depression and dementia https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/depression
Depression: Early warning of dementia? https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/depression-early-warning-of-dementia
The complex relationship between depression and dementia https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3039168/
Does Depression Contribute to Dementia? https://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/01/does-depression-contribute-to-dementia/
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.