By TMC Geropsychiatric Center
Studies showing a connection between depression and memory loss or other cognitive impairment have prompted health experts to take a new approach to treatment.
“When people have some cognitive impairment and it starts getting worse, it may not be exclusively from the underlying disease process,” explains Joyce Drozd, director of TMC Geropsychiatric Center.
“It may be from a variety of other things, whether it’s an infection, a medical issue or even an underlying depression.”
In fact, patients with depression and cognitive decline can be caught in a troublesome cycle: They get depressed because of their cognitive decline and then the depression makes their decline worse.
What to look for
Sometimes, patients aren’t able to express what they’re feeling and may not even characterize themselves as depressed, so it’s important to look for signs that depression may be impacting a loved one:
• Loss of appetite
• Sleep disturbance
• Agitation or other behavioral change
• Thoughts of not wanting to live
• Concentration problems
What can be done to break the cycle?
While experts can’t cure dementia, they can treat underlying mood disorders that can be exacerbating symptoms. Drozd says it is important to seek a multidisciplinary treatment team, such as the team assembled at TMC Geropsychiatric Center, which treats a patient medically, psychologically and therapeutically.
“Experts can help assess if your loved one’s ability to perform daily tasks of living has decreased. If so, then occupational therapists should be able to help restore some of those skills or help them compensate for those changes,” she says.
“It’s important to note if they have lost sight of doing things they love. If so, recreational therapists can help them tap into what brings them joy and contentment.”
The bottom line, Drozd says, is changes in a patient’s cognitive functioning are important to note and to explore if depression is playing a role. “While it’s important to come to a place of acceptance that a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, that doesn’t mean that they can’t live their best life so it’s more enjoyable.”