Depression is a very common mental illness that occurs in those with Alzheimer’s, as well as their family caregivers. Seniors experiencing losses such as death of a spouse, loss of health and independence (sometimes necessitating a move out of their home), and other losses may add to stress and feelings of depression. When seniors are also caregivers, the risk of depression is even greater.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association there are over 50 million family caregivers caring for chronically ill or disabled family members. Common symptoms resulting from the stress and physical and emotional drain that can occur from caregiving include: sadness, loneliness, isolation and stress - all feelings which can lead to depression. Facing common issues that can accompany caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can be a real challenge, particularly to caregivers who are elderly themselves. Common illnesses such as diabetes and stress-induced conditions such as depression can be more prevalent when family caregivers deal with the chronic debilitating symptoms of AD.
Signs and symptoms of depression to watch for in those with AD, as well as caregivers include:
- Sadness, fatigue and/or increased irritability
- Loss of interest in socialization and/or hobbies
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reluctance to leave home
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Sleeping too often or inability to sleep
- Worry, fear or feelings of worthlessness
- An increase in alcohol or drug use
- Voiced feelings of suicide thoughts or an attempt to commit suicide
Recent studies have indicated that treating depression in caregivers and providing education and support will help caregivers cope with the declining health of their loved one with AD.
Depression in seniors can increase the risks of other illnesses such as diabetes. In fact, one ten year study conducted at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago found that in a group of older adult participants, signs and symptoms of depression increased by 2.5 points or more, and 20% of them ended up with diabetes at the conclusion of the study.
If you or your loved one with AD is exhibiting signs or symptoms of depression, consult with the attending physician as soon as possible. To learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease, sign up for our 25 topic caregiver lessons at AlzU.org by CLICKING HERE.