Dementia – Depression and Alzheimer’s Disease
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.
What is depression?
When healthcare providers talk about depression, they mean the medical illness called major depression. Someone who has major depression has symptoms nearly every day, all day, for 2 weeks or longer. These symptoms can include:
- Feeling sad or numb
- Crying easily or for no reason
- Feeling slowed down
- Feeling restless and irritable
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Trouble remembering, focusing, or making decisions
- Headaches, backaches or digestive problems
- Unintended weight loss or gain
- Sleeping too much, or having problems sleeping
- Feeling tired all of the time
- No interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy, including sex
- Thoughts about death or suicide
There is a minor form of depression that causes less severe symptoms. Both have the same causes and treatment. An older person who has depression may feel confused or have trouble understanding simple requests.
What is Alzheimer dementia?
Alzheimer dementia is the most common type of dementia. Dementia is a brain disorder caused by damage to the brain cells. This can happen because of a tumor, head injury, stroke or disease. Alzheimer dementia makes it hard for people to remember, learn and communicate. These changes eventually make it hard for people to care for themselves. It can also cause changes in mood and personality.
Depression is very common among people who have Alzheimer dementia. In many cases, they become depressed when they realize that their memory and ability to function are getting worse. Together, depression and Alzheimer dementia can cause other symptoms. They may not want to go places or see people anymore. Their outlook and quality of life can suffer.
Things to consider
There are many things you can do to help someone who has Alzheimer dementia and depression:
- Create a pleasant environment. Include people and things that they are familiar with. This can brighten their spirit and help soothe any fear or anxiety.
- Set realistic expectations of what they can do. Help them with tasks they can’t do alone. Do not expect so much that they become frustrated or upset.
- Let them help with simple, enjoyable tasks. These could be preparing meals, gardening, or doing crafts.
- Avoid loud noises, crowded places, or overstimulation. This may cause them to become anxious or act out.
- Be positive. Frequent praise will help them—and you—feel better.
As the caregiver of a person who has Alzheimer dementia, you must also take care of yourself. If you become too tired and frustrated, you will be less able to help. Ask for help from family, friends, and local community organizations. Respite care may be available from your local senior citizens’ group or a social services agency. This is short-term care that is given to a patient to provide relief for the caregiver. Look for or ask your healthcare provider about caregiver support groups.
Other people who are dealing with the same problems may have good ideas on how to cope. Some senior living facilities may have programs specific for people who have Alzheimer dementia.
Contact your healthcare provider if you recognize Alzheimer dementia and/or depression symptoms in yourself or a loved one.
The healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to treat some symptoms. Antidepressant medicines can be helpful. These medicines help improve emotional and mental symptoms. They also can help with eating and/or sleeping problems. Antidepressant medicines are not habit-forming.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Alzheimer’s Society of Nova Scotia:
1-800-611-6345 (toll-free within Nova Scotia)
Prince Edward Island website: