Alzheimer’s disease and Depression: Fighting them together

by Eric Corum

Alzheimer’s disease and depression sadly go hand in hand.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports:

Experts estimate that up to 40 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from significant depression. Identifying depression in someone with Alzheimer’s can be difficult, since dementia can cause some of the same symptoms.

The unique and terrible aspect of Alzheimer’s disease is that it is trying and traumatic for both the person who is diagnosed and for their primary caregiver.

Diagnosis, and the subsequent trials can trigger feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and helplessness. Sometimes a proactive approach to planning can help create a sense of empowerment can help to combat these emotions.

Why do Alzheimer’s disease and depression occur together? Depression and dementia in the elderly…

One of the early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease is social withdrawal and lack of enjoyment from routine activities. Social withdraw can result from the drastic mood changes and memory loss that are common symptoms resulting from Alzheimer’s disease. This social withdrawal compounded with an increasing sense of a lack of independence can result in depression.

Depression coupled with Alzheimer’s disease can be extremely difficult for both the affected individual and their caregivers. While the prospect of helping an individual fight both Alzheimer’s disease and depression is a daunting task, there are some common things one can do to help. When helping a loved one cope with depression it is hard but necessary to help them find enjoyment out of life’s common pleasures again.

How can you fight depression when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease? Without prescriptions!

Light exercise like yoga can help with reducing depression and stress, in addition to the proven physical benefits. The deep breathing, stretching, and meditation that comes with yoga exercises helps the person with dementia to relax and provides a distraction from their struggles.

One simple nonpharmacological consideration can be to intentionally plan activities that historically have brought the person with Alzheimer’s disease enjoyment.

Activities such as walking the dog, enjoying a nice picnic, or fishing can be activities that can help to reinforce longstanding positive memories. While at some point it can be dangerous at times to let a senior act independently, if possible encouraging the person with dementia to accomplish routine activities independently can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

This creates a new purpose for routine and mundane tasks that supersede simply having the task accomplished. For example, household tasks like: folding clothes, making the bed, or raking leaves take on a new meaning. Instead of focusing on the quality of the end result, a new goal is that the task gives the person with Alzheimer’s disease a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Before letting a senior independently run errands or perform physical tasks, always make sure that there are no risks of hurting themselves.

What else can you do to fight depression in somebody with Alzheimer’s disease?

There are even more nonpharmacological approaches that help one cope with depression.

Early-stage support groups can be extremely helpful because it gives your loved one a connection to people with whom they can talk and relate. Many individuals who attend these support group often relishes in the lack of judgement and freedom of sharing that the group creates.
For those who are not as comfortable in social settings, counseling is also an option. Seek out a counselor with experience with persons with dementia.

Scheduling a predictable routine can also help. Scheduling difficult activities in the morning such as bathing can reduce the stress and fatigue because that is the time a senior has the most energy. Keeping a consistent routine is also assists with mental fatigue. The person with dementia will begin to get into a groove if activities like meals, naps and quiet time are all metered out at the same time every day.

For primary caregivers, one of the most important things to they can do to promote a positive emotional state is to reassure the person with dementia that they will be taken care. This can be accomplished with verbal affirmation but also with positive body language. Showing compassion will work wonders for your loved one’s emotional well-being. However, this can be especially daunting as a primary caregiver incurs all of the physical and emotional stress of caregiving. To combat this, it is highly recommended that they too seek out caregiver support groups or counselors. Additionally, in-home respite and adult day programs allow for a tremendous amount of relief on the daily burdens of caregiving.

The key to remember is that will power alone is not enough to fight depression, nor is depression just a state of mind. One must take concrete steps towards alleviating the causes of the depression.

To help them, one must first show them support, second help them maintain their independence, and third schedule activities that they used to love doing to help them enjoy life’s pleasures again.

The Helper Bees also has great Alzheimer expert caregivers, sometimes you need a break from providing support for a loved one because, as we know it very well, it can be extremely overwhelming for the caregiver. Especially when they’re family or close to the senior. Why not take a short break once in a while and let us fill in for you with our passion and knowledge? Or maybe you just want someone to talk to regarding Alzheimer’s advice. We are here to help.

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