AlzU Blog

What Caregivers Should Know about Depression, Dementia, & Alzheimer's Disease

Depression becomes more common as we age.  At the same time, cognitive decline is a normal part of the aging process.  As people are living longer, the rate of cognitive decline, dementia and depression increases, according to a recent study posted by U.S. National Library of Medicine(PubMed). In fact, it is thought that depression and dementia could actually become major public health concerns in the future. 

Studies show that depression and Alzheimer’s may likely potentiate the other, and the risks continue to rise with age.  For example, those with Alzheimer’s dementia commonly suffer from symptoms of depression.  In addition, there is a growing body of evidence that points to the likeliness that seniors with depression have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) than those who do not frequently suffer from the mental disorder.  Other studies link history of depression with an increased risk for cognitive decline.

Depression and dementia occur more frequently in the aging population as compared to younger adults.  Senior adults experience a slight decline in cognitive functioning as a normal part of aging.  Therefore, there are various ways depression could be associated with cognitive impairment and dementia, including:

1. Depression and cognitive impairment could be diagnosed as two completely unrelated disorders. 
2. Cognitive impairment and depression could be manifestations of a single disorder (such as AD).
3. People could become depressed in response to losses related to cognitive impairment.
4. Depression could be the first symptom of previously undetected AD.
5. Chronic depression could possibly be one of many risk factors for the future development of AD.

It is important to note that depression is not, in and of itself, a cause for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Depression is, rather, a single risk factor (which increases the probability of AD).  These factors are not mutually exclusive possibilities when it comes to depression and AD.

If you suspect symptoms of depression (or any other mental health issue), in a person with AD, it is important to consult with the primary physician right away.  The physician may make a referral to a mental health provider, or prescribe antidepressant medication that is safe for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
To learn more about AD, check out our free courses on AD caregiving and AD prevention & treatment ClICK HERE

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