Employees at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Above and Beyond Hospice have experience working with patients and their families at this difficult time and know that people’s feelings may change rapidly.
This could mean that someone may experience periods of sadness or depression.
At the same time, some people in hospice situations may also be experiencing forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which could affect their emotions and awareness of their particular health situation.
In many cases, dementia symptoms and depression systems can be similar, including how people act and feel. Even their physical and mental statuses can be similar, making it difficult for people to decide whether someone is suffering from dementia, suffering from depression or both.
An official diagnosis of one or both conditions can be made by a health care provider, but observations of behavior from caregivers, family members or home health care staff can be useful in helping make this determination.
While depression can often be seen in seniors, especially those in hospice situations it’s not necessarily something that increases as people age.
The risk of dementia, however, does seem to increase as people get older. By the time someone reaches 85, 30 percent of adults are likely to have some form of dementia, according to Health In Aging. This figure grows as people age – when people are age 60, only 7 percent have it.
Research into both conditions is continuing, but depression is believed to be based more on people’s reactions to changing circumstances and the environment.
For instance, the National Institutes of Aging said that some people may be in good emotional health much of their lives.
But as people age there are often stressful situations that can plunge people into depression:
- Change in household, such as family members moving away.
- Death of a spouse, family members or close friends.
- Change in location, such as relocating to a retirement community or assisted living center.
- Career changes due to retirement which can give people more free time and less purpose.
- Health changes that didn’t exist or were minor but are becoming serious, including dementia
Depression can sometimes be difficult to assess. It’s not just a brief feeling of sadness, but a more chronic condition that can sometimes be expressed as anger, fatigue, anxiety, lack of motivation or lack of interest in life, including eating, sleeping, and favorite activities.
High levels of depression can lead to violence or suicide. But there are a variety of methods which can help treat or reduce it, including therapy and medication.
Dementia can take a variety of forms based on what happens to the body and brain.
Some symptoms can be reversed with proper care, but some, like Alzheimer’s disease, cause permanent brain damage and eventual death.
Research continues into possible causes of dementia, which may be triggered by everything from infection to deficiencies to certain nutrients to poor lifestyle. Other diseases or health conditions may also contribute to the risk of dementia.
Similar signs of depression can be seen, including anger, lack of interest motivation, and unusual sleeping habits.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people suffering from dementia also may show these symptoms along with additional symptoms, including memory problems and a lack of concentration. The changed sleeping habits may consist of longer periods of actual sleeping, rather than simply fatigue.
But one crucial difference is the awareness of a situation. While someone with depression may not be aware enough to say “I feel depressed,” they could at least share their feelings — “I feel sad or unmotivated.”
However, people with advanced dementia are more likely to not be able to express how they feel, while people who are depressed will be aware of their feelings, including strong emotions of worthlessness or hopelessness or thoughts of death and suicide.
Other assessment methods
When depression occurs in someone that has Alzheimer’s disease, there are some differences from depression by itself.
For instance, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that the periods of depression may be less severe; may not last as long; the symptoms may change faster, and there are fewer discussions of or attempts at suicide.
A health care provider trying to evaluate someone’s health condition may likely be familiar with whether they have shown signs of depression in the past or have been increasingly showing symptoms of dementia.
There may even be some remedies to help, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which can assist people with Alzheimer’s disease who are also battling depression. These are different than anti-depressants but can have similar effects.
Home health care can help
Caregivers or home health care staff also may encourage family members to look for ways to change someone’s environment and living conditions to possibly reduce depression. For instance, someone in the Cedar Rapids area can be encouraged to exercise more, look for support groups or other ways to decrease their isolation.
Even someone battling dementia or under hospice care may appreciate more attention, stimulus, and variety in their lives,
Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to help evaluate and answer questions about dementia, depression and other health conditions at any point in a patient’s life.