The links between depression and dementia are deep-rooted. Many of the symptoms are shared between the two, and too often, people just assume that the problems they are experiencing are an inevitable part of their dementia and something they must just put up with.
But help is at hand
In fact however, treatment for depression is not only available, but often proves very effective for those in the early and mid stages of dementia.
Estimates suggest that as many as 40% of all those diagnosed with one of the many forms of dementia will experience a period of depression at some point. Apathy, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, social isolation, trouble concentrating and sleeping, and general withdrawal are all signs of depression. Often though, the cognitive impairment caused by the dementia hampers the person’s ability to articulate their feelings adequately, making it difficult for them to seek the help they need.
The first port of call should be the GP, who will be in the best position to explore the best possible options for drug medications, counselling and complimentary therapies.
The most effective treatment is likely to be a combination of medicine, counselling and activities that bring about reconnection with the people and activities that bring happiness and contentment.
Nobody can beat depression alone, but with the support of family and friends, try these proven successful ways to boost mood and combat isolation:
Plan a predictable daily routine.
This can provide reassurance and help schedule activities the person finds challenging at the time of day they are best able to cope.
Seek out local support groups
These can be a huge source of help both for the person with dementia and their carer. It can be a huge source of comfort to know that you are not alone in dealing with this and there are others in a similar position. They provide a valuable source of information and access to other services and support available locally. Groups can provide fun and meaningful activities geared specifically to those with memory and cognitive problems, and are a great way of maintaining social contacts.
Plan in regular exercise, particularly in the mornings, as this can be a fantastic mood enhancer.
- Make a list of activities, people and places the person enjoys.
Try to visit/incorporate these more frequently into your diary.
- Acknowledge the person’s feelings and frustrations while continuing to express positive messages about how you hope they will feel better soon.
Provide lots of reassurance the person will not be abandonded.
The right music can really lift spirits so make a playlist of the person’s favourite songs to listen and sing along to.
Find ways the person can contribute to family life and remember to recognise his/her contribution.
Talk to one of the national charities offering support and advice.
Admiral Nursing Direct provides dedicated dementia support- their telephone Helpline is open Mon to Fri 9:15am −4:45pm and on Wed and Thurs evenings 6-9pm on 0845 2579406.
Or Alzheimer’s Society Talking Point provides a means of asking questions and seeking support from others in a similar position - visit their online forum on their website.
Celebrate small successes and occasions.