Depression is a serious mental health issue characterized by long periods of low mood, feelings of despair and loss of interest in things that used to bring joy. Anyone can experience depression, even if they are otherwise healthy, but this mental illness can be a common experience for seniors with memory loss. Whether due to the emotional trials of living with the degenerative disease or changes in brain chemistry, those living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are at an increased risk of becoming depressed. Rob Low, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Pensacola, a memory care assisted living community in Pensacola, Florida, says, “Caregivers of loved ones with memory loss should also be monitoring their mood and behavior, but it’s important to know the signs of a serious condition like depression. Depression is not just a side effect of coping with memory loss or aging. It is a medical condition with its own set of symptoms and options for treatment. If your loved one is struggling with depression-like symptoms, never assume that they’ll simply snap out of it. Different from a singular bad day, depression episodes can last weeks or months, and often reoccur, significantly impacting one’s quality of life.” Fortunately, treatment for depression is available to manage its symptoms. However, one first has to recognize that it’s a reality. Depression and other common mental illnesses carry an unfortunate amount of stigma, so people sometimes downplay their symptoms or think they’ll get better on their own. But when a loved one’s mental illness goes untreated, symptoms can become more difficult to manage. If you’re caring for a loved one with memory loss, be on the lookout for signs of depression. They may not be able to explain how they are feeling, so it’s up to you to be their voice and advocate for their mental health.
Signs of Depression
When depression occurs with another illness such as memory loss, it can be harder to recognize and often goes untreated. However, the National Institute on Aging states that treating a loved one’s depression can help them better manage other illnesses. Older adults may show different signs of depression than younger people. For example, rather than extreme sadness typically noted as the main symptom, seniors may experience more tiredness or irritability. The NIA suggests looking for the following signs of depression in your loved one:
- Loss of interest in typically pleasurable activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much
- Irritability and restlessness
- Aches, pains, headaches or stomach pains with no clear cause or relief following treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings, along with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
- Changes in eating patterns, eating too much or not enough, with unplanned changes in weight
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Frequent crying
- Thoughts or attempts of self-harm or suicide
If any one of these symptoms lasts longer than two weeks, your loved one could likely be depressed. Schedule an appointment with your loved one’s doctor to discuss possibilities for treatment. If you or someone you love is ever at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, get help immediately. Call a crisis helpline or help your loved one get to a hospital.
Determining Mental Illness with Memory Loss
You might have noticed that a few of the symptoms listed above are similar to typical symptoms of memory loss. For example, seniors with dementia often experience difficulty concentrating or remembering, as well as sleep issues or changes in eating habits. They may stop participating in social activities they once enjoyed. Because many symptoms of depression and dementia overlap, it can be hard to determine the true cause of the symptoms. If you’re unsure, talk to your loved one’s doctor anyway. Their professional perspective can help decipher your loved one’s symptoms, and they’ll likely be able to suggest holistic treatments and lifestyle changes that may help lessen symptoms, regardless of their cause. If medication is necessary for treating symptoms, your loved one’s doctor will be able to suggest the best course of action.
A Trusted Partner in Memory Care
“Watching for signs of depression in a loved one with memory loss can be a difficult task,” says Low. “Especially if your loved one denies their symptoms or refuses to talk about how they feel, it can be increasingly hard. We suggest speaking to someone who understands your situation to sort out all the difficult things you’re observing and experiencing as you care for your loved one. The team at YourLife™ of Pensacola would be happy to listen to your concerns and offer professional advice to help you provide the best support and care.” If you think your loved one may be depressed, or you have questions about common symptoms of depression in those with memory loss, contact a medical professional or call YourLife™ of Pensacola for guidance. We’re always here to help you care for your loved one.
The Memory Care Your Loved One Deserves.
Offering the very best in Memory Care, YourLife™ of Pensacola was designed specifically with residents in mind. We’ve created a community where residents can define their own lifestyle, based on their preferences, needs and story, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and the freedom to define their own lifestyles. Because we focus solely on Memory Care, all of our resources and attention are on catering to each resident’s needs while providing unequaled peace of mind for families. Our licensed nurses and YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide personally inspired care and support, no matter what your needs. With such dedicated care, our residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible. At YourLife™ of Pensacola, YourStory comes to life. Whether you want to enjoy our exclusive activities and YourStory programming, spend time exploring our services and amenities, relax in our easy-to-navigate Memory Care neighborhoods and living areas or try something new, the choice is entirely up to you. Contact us to learn more!