When discussing dementia, it’s easy to think only of the mental changes that can take place as the brain slowly declines. Eventually, the whole body starts to be affected to the point that residents of Costa Mesa and elsewhere may need home health care or relocation to an assisted care facility.
The staff at Accredited Home Care want people to know that there’s more to these mental changes than cognitive problems such as forgetting details, how to perform certain tasks or general confusion.
Some clients experience other feelings as a direct result of these changes. For example, being aware of what’s happening can lead to fear and depression, which can be manifested as sadness, frustration, anxiety, or anger, or sometimes all at once.
Or, if someone has progressed to more advanced forms of dementia, they still may experience some signs of depression and uncertainty but may not be able to define or clarify what’s happening as clearly.
Physical changes in health can also increase or amplify some of these feelings, such as declining coordination or poor sleep. These can affect mental health as well as physical health.
Feeling depressed due to different types of dementia is definitely understandable – dementia represents a major and permanent shift in someone’s life, and it’s not a pleasant feeling to know that your abilities are going to decrease and you may forget much of your life, including family members.
Whether you are aware of symptoms progressing or are already further along, it’s common to feel lonely, scared, weak and tired, and worse, you may not be able to articulate all of this.
The Alzheimer’s Association said about 40 percent of people with this disease experience some type of depression.
If about 50 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s, according to Alzheimers.net, this means 20 million people diagnosed with this condition are dealing with some degrees of depression.
Depression associated with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia also may have some differences other than depression as a standard condition, however.
The Alzheimer’s Association said this type of depression may be a little less severe, possibly due to existing mental impairment, and it may not last as long but symptoms may still come and go. There is also less chance of suicide due to this type of depression, although one study showed that there is a higher rate of suicide for newly diagnosed cases, but overall, a higher risk for accidental death vs. suicide.
Fortunately, while forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease are degenerative, there are ways to combat and reduce depression. This may not change the ultimate outcome as the disease progresses but focusing on better mental health may provide a different perspective for clients and those around them as they approach death.
Some strategies to help deal with depression include:
- Exercise. Even about 20-30 minutes of physical activity each day can have beneficial results, including producing endorphins, which are natural hormones that reduce pain and increase happiness. Plus regular exercise can increase strength, flexibility and endurance. Someone who can’t get out safely for a walk or visit a gym may need to find indoor alternatives.
- Routine. We all like general schedules, but those with dementia can find disruptions or a lack of planning especially distressing. So creating and sticking to a daily routine as much as possible can help people feel relaxed and secure.
- Do more in the morning. Researchers aren’t sure why, but many people with Alzheimer’s disease have more challenges and become more aggressive and confused in the afternoon and evening, a condition called ‘sundowning.’ So try to schedule the especially intensive activities in the daytime if possible.
- Consider an animal. Pets are believed to be naturally calming, whether it’s petting a cat, playing with a dog, watching bird eat or a fish swim. Even if someone isn’t interested in the responsibility/commitment of caring for a pet, or can’t have one where they live, maybe a friend or loved one can bring one over to play for a few hours.
- Provide little treats. Some dementia experts suggest thinking small, whatever can bring a smile to someone’s face, such as something triggers a good memory from the past. Perhaps a certain food, drink or scent will be appreciated, or even playing a certain song or type of music from certain important periods of time in their life, even if they can’t remember why.
In addition to these suggestions, Accredited Home Care offers a variety of services to help clients, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and massage therapy. All of these can help calm people down and feel safer and less anxious. It also offers a respite care program, where skilled health care personnel can come over and sit with the client for a few hours or longer.
This can also provide a break for a caregiver or family members, and be fun for the client who may enjoy occasional visits if it’s the same respite care provider.
Overall, contact us or your health care provider if you believe they may be showing or expressing symptoms of depression.