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Depression in Alzheimer’s Disease Patients: What You Need to Know

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Depression in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) sufferers is common. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, it can affect patients in their early and middle stages of the disease. Here are some of the things you should know in case your loved one is showing signs of depression in Alzheimer’s.

What are the Symptoms?

Alzheimer’s Disease and depression go hand-in-hand. According to experts, 40 per cent of people with the condition also experience depression. The problem is how to differentiate between the two, due to similarities in their symptoms.

People living with Alzheimer’s can lose interest in their usual hobbies and activities. They feel social withdrawal and apathy, and become isolated and have problems with concentration. They will also experience impairment of thinking. People with depression have difficulty articulating their feelings as a result of cognitive impairment. They develop feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and sadness.

The symptoms of depression in patients with both diseases is usually less severe, as they don’t always feel sadness and bouts of depression are often shorter. For that reason, thoughts of suicide are rarer than in patients with only depression.

How to Diagnose Depression in AD?

Patients with AD often lack sleep, feel fatigued, and agitated. If you, as a concerned partner, notice changes in their appetites, or notice the AD sufferer showing feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness for two weeks or more, then take them to see a doctor at a specialised clinic.

The medical practitioner will ask for the medical history of the patient. They will make physical and mental examinations and interview close family members and relatives. Medical professionals need to be thorough because of the similarities in symptoms of AD and depression. Non-medical treatment is preferred to avoid any medication side effects. If the diagnosis is severe, you may consider admitting the patient to a dementia residential care home. From Dover to Inverness and beyond, they are available throughout the country.

Treatment of Depression in AD

Young Woman Having Counselling Session

As well as professional counselling, the first course of action is to introduce the sufferer to a support group. This is a helpful technique if the patients are still in the early stages of the disease, and lets them know they aren’t alone. They can meet people with the same condition and share experiences and empathy.

Group involvement is part of a broader effort to reduce social isolation. Encourage the sufferer to continue activities with other people in the family, or with friends, and let them know you appreciate their involvement and contribution.

Patients who prefer to be alone can go to individual counselling.

Regular exercise also helps hinder the symptoms of depression in AD patients.

Of the drugs available, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI, is the most common prescription anti-depressant. It is known to have fewer side effects and a lower risk of interactions with other medications.

Taking care of a loved one who has AD and depression is challenging. You want the best for your loved one, but you also need to look after yourself. However you choose to manage the treatment of a sufferer, the experience is emotionally draining for all involved. Make sure you look after yourself as well as your loved one.

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