Feeling sad or grieved upon learning that you have Alzheimer’s disease is normal. Low moods that persist for two or more weeks, however, may indicate that you’re having a major depressive episode. Major depression is characterized by abnormally low moods that inhibit your ability to function normally in everyday life.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression are varied and no single person exhibits them all. The most commons symptoms include:
- Changes in appetite or weight fluctuation
- Changes in sleeping patterns, insomnia or oversleeping
- Crying spells
- Feelings of guilt, sadness or worthlessness
- Lack of concentration and energy
- Loss of interest in activities that once brought enjoyment
- Memory problems
- Physical pains, such as headaches or back pain
- Reduced sex drive
- Restlessness or agitation
- Thoughts of death and suicide
- Withdrawal from friends and family members.
Sometimes, both patients and medical professionals overlook anxiety, depression and other symptoms because they’re similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease. Consult your doctor if you’ve been experiencing some of the symptoms outlined above for two or more weeks. Your physician can help you decide on a proper course of treatment. Depression is a treatable condition, and most people feel better after receiving treatment.
Coping with Depression
In addition to medical treatment, you can adopt lifestyle choices that help to reduce the symptoms of depression.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs and caffeine. All three of these substances can worsen symptoms of depression by affecting your sleep patterns and interfering with medication.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. You should consider taking additional vitamins and supplements such as vitamins D, B and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which have been shown to help with depression.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can improve your mood.
- Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest. Coping with depression and Alzheimer’s disease is easier if you’re alert during the day.
Additional Depression Coping Skills for Alzheimer’s Sufferers
Some additional depression coping skills for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Developing or maintaining meaningful activities and hobbies
- Acknowledging your illness and not being too hard on yourself when you forget something
- Joining an Alzheimer’s support group
- Staying socially active, which has beneficial effects on both depression and Alzheimer’s
- Simplifying your life
- Talking to a friend, relative or medical professional about how you feel.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (n.d.). Living with Alzheimer’s. Retrieved June 22, 2010, from http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/haveAD/livingwith-intro.htm.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (n.d.). Understanding depression. Retrieved May 4, 2010, from http://www.camh.net/About_Addiction_Mental_Health/Mental_Health_Information/ Depressive_Illness/depressive_ill_understanding.html.
Lundbeck Institute. (n.d.). Depression: Prevention. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from http://www.brainexplorer.org/depression/Depression_Prevention.shtml.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2010). Depression: Coping and support. Retrieved May 10, 2010 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175/DSECTION=coping-and-support.