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The Relationship between Dementia & Depression

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When it comes to dementia and depression, doctors have been having the age-old chicken and egg debate, trying to determine which comes first. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 40 percent of those with Alzheimer’s experience depression, indicating a link between the two. While some theorize that depression is an early symptom of dementia, others believe that depression physically alters the brain, increasing the risk of dementia later in life. The details are still hazy, but here’s a look at what we do know.

It’s not clear if depression causes dementia in some way, but it does increase the odds of developing dementia later. According to the New York Times, adults who experienced depression at 50 or older are 65 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and twice as likely to develop some form of dementia. The more severe the depression, the more severe later memory loss seems to be.

Physical abnormalities have also been observed with both dementia and depression, but the types of damage are not the same. Depression bathes the brain in cortisol, causing inflammation. With Alzheimer’s, deposits of calcium clump between the brain’s nerve cells and creates webs of damaged protein, blocking the nutrients within the cell. It is unclear if Alzheimer’s causes these protein deposits or if the protein deposits cause the Alzheimer’s.

In those experiencing depression and dementia at the same time, research shows that memory improves when the depression is treated. Treating depression does not completely reverse dementia, but it does improve cognitive function. If you have an aging parent or loved one who is living with dementia, it’s important to provide them with the high level of Fairfield dementia care needed to promote socialization and self-esteem, actively helping to ward off feelings of dementia.

It is interesting to note, however, that though withholding depression treatment worsens dementia, withholding dementia treatment does not worsen depression. In fact, neuropsychologist Robert Wilson, of Rush University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, reports that depression lessens as dementia progresses. This is most likely because depression requires sustained negative feelings over time – a difficult feat for those with memory loss.

If you have an aging parent or loved one who is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, provide them with the safe, encouraging and welcoming home environment that promotes positive feelings. Doing so can help protect against further memory loss, and can also help them to enjoy feelings of independence. For more information about dementia or Alzheimer’s home care in Fairfield, reach out to Home Care Assistance of Fairfield at 203-955-1915 today.