The Dementia and Depression Connection

Did you know that undiagnosed depression can sometimes be incorrectly diagnosed as mild cognitive impairment or as early stage dementia? Or, did you know that dementia symptoms can often get worse in the presence of depression? One thing is certain: dementia and depression can often be linked, especially in older adults. If you or your loved one has a diagnosis of dementia or depression, read on for the information you should know in order to best advocate for yourself or others.

Dementia Symptoms, Depression, and Shorter Days

As the days get shorter in the winter months, we all feel a little extra exhausted and maybe a little more blue. However, for seniors living with dementia, shorter days can often cause symptoms to increase. For example, agitation and enhanced confusion in the late afternoon and evening hours, sometimes referred to as sundowning, begins earlier in the day as the days become shorter. Sleep disturbances can also increase, making for more sleepless nights or confused sleep routines. 

For seniors living with depression, shorter days can often exacerbate symptoms as well. Family members might notice their loved ones sleeping more throughout the day, eating less in the evenings, and feelings of loneliness or helplessness increase.

As the days become shorter and we all enter into the cold days of winter, it’s important for family members and caregivers to pay close attention to any changes in sleep patterns, behavior, or nutrition. Contact your loved one’s physician if you notice any changes so they can develop a treatment plan sooner than later.

Depression and Dementia

While everyone is different, it is common for depression and dementia to go hand-in-hand. For those living in the early stage of dementia, depression can often follow a dementia diagnosis or show up as the person begins to grieve their new way of life. However, family members can often overlook symptoms of depression in their loved one because they assume it is caused by cognitive decline.

This is why communicating with your loved one’s physician is so important. While your loved one might be losing weight because they are forgetting to make themselves lunch because they have dementia, they may also be losing weight because they are unmotivated to make themselves lunch due to depression. Or, it could be a combination of both. Depression and dementia are both nuanced, and any change you might see can be valuable insight to give to your loved one’s clinical team.

How CaringGivers Can Help

Dementia can progress more rapidly if a senior is isolated or lonely at home. Similarly, depression can progress more quickly if isolation is in the picture. If you are not able to connect with your loved one for a few hours each day – and most family members simply cannot – a CaringGivers caregiver can be the consistent presence your loved one needs. Our team members are there to not only provide personal care assistance or to help out with household tasks, but also to have meaningful conversations with your loved one that can decrease the risk of isolation and all the negative health outcomes that go along with it.

Further, a CaringGivers caregiver can become a part of your loved one’s team. It is someone else keeping an eye out for any changes. Our caregivers report their observations in order to prevent health crises or poor health outcomes.

Contact our team today to schedule a free consultation.

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