Anxiety & Depression with Dementia

Dementia Care Teams that Care about Your Well-Being

It is not uncommon for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and related dementias to also develop depression and anxiety. In-home caregivers are a key part of first recognizing the symptoms and then finding ways to relieve those conditions.

Ruth Drew, director of client and information services at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, said that other medical causes must first be ruled out. “A person with a urinary tract infection may exhibit similar symptoms,” she explains. The symptoms of depression can vary widely and include a change in appetite (eating a lot more or a lot less); feeling sad, hopeless, discouraged, and tearful; not engaging in social activities that they used to enjoy; or sleeping a lot more or a lot less. Severe pain could also be causing anxiety or depression, she notes, but a person with dementia no longer has coping mechanisms to sort out what might make them feel better.

Once it is determined that the individual is truly experiencing anxiety or depression, Ms. Drew says, the key to helping them is in how well the in-home caregivers know the person.

“I can’t overstate the importance of the human connection,” she says. “People can feel very isolated.” Ms. Drew suggests that in-home caregivers reintroduce activities that were pleasurable before the dementia.

“A caregiver can make a huge difference in someone’s life just by knowing these few tips,” she says:

  • Pets can be really meaningful if the person liked pets before.
  • Music can totally turn a mood around.
  • If the person went to church or has a strong faith, reading the Scriptures can be a pleasant activity to share with them.
  • “If this person was always outdoors and they are cooped up now, it’s important to get them outside,” Ms. Drew says. “And if it’s too freezing cold to go outside, make sure they are by a window.”
  • Let the individual explore painting, pottery, or some other artistic medium.

“The important thing is not did they execute an activity flawlessly, but did they enjoy the process?” Ms. Drew says.

Contact us today with any questions you may for dealing with depression and anxiety in those with dementia.