As people age, they become more susceptible to having bouts of depression. These times are usually marked by a significant decrease in overall happiness, as sadness and feelings of hopelessness take over the mind. Older people are at a high risk of experiencing signs of depression, but the chances become even greater for those suffering from memory loss. Memory loss can create a sense of sadness for people as they lose their independence, which is why it’s so important to be aware of the signs of depression and to recognize them in a memory care patient early on.
When you think of depression, there are probably a few symptoms that come to mind. Things like sadness and despair are some of the more well-known symptoms of depression and are often the signs that people notice first. Still, there are other lesser-known symptoms that people can suffer from that can signal to caregivers that they’re experiencing depression.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “The cognitive impairment experienced by people with Alzheimer’s often makes it difficult for them to articulate their sadness, hopelessness, guilt and other feelings associated with depression.” Knowing the signs of depression in memory care patients is the easiest way to help them to get better fast. Here are a few depression symptoms to look out for.
Apathetic behaviors can be a symptom of depression in memory care patients. Apathy in memory care patients will reveal itself as the patient having a lack of interest in things they once showed interest in. It can make the resident seem as if they don’t care about anything, as they will often spend their day with little to no activity.
If someone was once very lively and active and their interest in things they once found enjoyable begins to decline, it could be a sign of depression. Though it’s easy to associate someone’s interests with the things they do for fun, apathetic behaviors can also include a lack of interest in things that need to be done daily. Being uninterested in tasks such as personal grooming and preparing meals are other types of apathetic behavior that could be a sign of depression.
Changes in Appetite
Another sign of depression in memory care patients can be a gradual or significant loss of appetite. This can be seen through their inability to finish a meal or from skipping mealtimes altogether. Unlike other issues that cause appetite loss, the loss of appetite from depression is the result of a lack of interest in eating. Their bodies still yearn for nutrients, but they may feel lethargic, uninterested in cooking, and without the proper energy to prepare their own meals.
Though the loss of appetite is common with memory care patients suffering from depression, they are also just as likely to have the opposite effect. Some memory care patients with depression may be more likely to overeat. Food can have a nostalgic and comforting effect on the brain and may temporarily resolve an emotional hunger in the individual.
Eating to ward off feelings of depression will manifest through overeating, constantly snacking, and significant weight gain. Changes in appetite are normal from time to time, but big changes that seem unhealthy and out of ordinary for that specific resident may be a sign of depression. At a memory care community, it’s easy for staff to recognize changes in appetite, as meals are eaten communally.
The ability to enjoy the company of other people can add significant value to most people’s lives. The social nature of senior living communities is what draws many people to call them home. But for older people experiencing memory loss, it can be harder to continue joining in on social activities. This is especially true for memory loss patients who are aware on some level of their declining memory.
When someone at a memory care community begins to withdraw socially, it may be a sign of depression. Their disease can make them feel “other” to the rest of their group and embarrassed at the mistakes they make. Luckily, a good memory care community addresses these issues so that residents can receive as much socialization as possible, and staff can encourage them to do so.
Memory care communities like Solterra Senior Living have amenities like well-appointed community areas and specially designed activity programs for residents to enjoy. This helps to create appointed times of socialization when it will be noticeable if someone is consistently missing.
Agitation and Irritability
A person who is suffering from both dementia and depression may show signs of feeling extremely agitated and irritable more often. This can be triggered by the effects of their memory loss or from big changes that happen in a person’s life. But when someone becomes increasingly agitated more often than not, it can be a sign of depression.
People with memory loss are more likely to experience agitation as a symptom of their disease. Big changes may feel like they’re happening more frequently than for the average person, as the memory is impaired. Though this can be an effect of their disease, the possibility of it being from depression shouldn’t be overlooked.
A person suffering from depression can be more easily agitated because their state of mind is more melancholy than normal. It doesn’t take much for a person already feeling symptoms of depression to be offset by something that they wouldn’t normally get upset about.
Significant Depressed Mood
A more noticeable sign of depression in adults with memory loss is a significant decrease in their mood. Patients may report feeling hopeless or discouraged. They may also find themselves unexpectedly tearful or sad. The National Institute on Aging suggests that “If you have several of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks, you may have depression.”
Depression is common in older people experiencing dementia, but it isn’t considered normal. With proper care and diagnosis, people in memory care can be successfully treated for depression.