Senior Living Care Blog

The Overlap Of Dementia And Psychiatric Disorders

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Aug 16, 2019 11:00:00 AM


Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are serious issues that affect millions of Americans and is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.


In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country. Similarly, an estimated 5 million Americans suffered from Alzheimer’s in 2014, that number is projected to almost triple to 14 million by 2060.


While most are aware of Alzheimer’s and dementia and the cognitive and behavioral symptoms associated with the illness, many do not know how certain psychiatric and mental disorders can also impact older adults who are already suffering from dementia. Things like anxiety and depression are common among these individuals.


Moreover, studies have found that the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease are linked to certain neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, and sleep problems.


Unfortunately, these issues can also have a major effect on caregivers and some caretakers may even adopt these psychiatric problems as well.



An older woman with Alzheimer's and anxiety sitting in a room with friends

According to the New York Times, anxiety is a byproduct and symptom of the transition from the normal aging brain to cognitive impairment. It can also be triggered by stressful events such as moving homes or body changes. The problem is actually more common in people with dementia than those without. It affects between 5 and 20 percent of those with dementia.


Some of the symptoms that those with dementia and anxiety may experience include:


  • Extreme worry
  • Tiredness
  • Uneasiness
  • Feelings of dread
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache and more


There are also a number of behavioral changes that people with dementia and anxiety may deal with. These can include agitation, hoarding, fear of being alone, and more.


Despite these vast problems, there are ways that patients can treat anxiety. One of the most common ways that you can overcome this is through the use of medication including antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and more.


It should be noted that some of these medications can be addictive and they should be taken as prescribed and used only for a short period.



An older woman with alzheimers suffering from depression

Along with anxiety, depression is a common psychiatric problem that affects those with dementia. Again, while depression may be a thing that many people suffer from, it is more common among those with dementia.


Depression will often be diagnosed in the beginning stages of dementia. The problem can disappear and come back and can come at any stage of dementia.


Depression is more than just having a bad day or feeling sad. While sadness can be a symptom associated with depression, it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of other common symptoms, both physical and psychological, that those with depression can suffer from. Some of these symptoms include:


  • A loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt
  • Isolation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tiredness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide and more


Similar to anxiety, one of the common methods for treating depression is through the use of medication. However, patients can also go to self-help and support groups to help with these issues. Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, is a common treatment strategy for someone who is dealing with depression.


Helping Caregivers

An older woman with dementia getting help from a caregiver

Caring for someone with problems like depression or anxiety can actually lead to caregivers experiencing the problems themselves. Caregivers often suffer from these issues and is sometimes referred to as caregiver stress.


Some of the common symptoms that caregivers deal with include feeling overwhelmed, feeling alone, headaches, feeling tired, sleeping too much or too little, and more. Caretakers who are dealing with caregiver stress can suffer from depression, anxiety, weak immune system, obesity, higher risk for chronic diseases, and more.


These issues can interfere with daily life. Luckily, there are things that you can do to prevent and relieve symptoms related to caregiver stress.


One of the best things that you can do would be to prioritize exercise and diet. Getting exercise and staying active is a great way to get the endorphins going and experience a release of dopamine that can improve your overall mood. Similarly, eating an unhealthy diet can cause exacerbate the issues associated with depression and anxiety and just make the overall situation worse. However, if you get a nutrient-rich, well-balanced diet, it can help improve your situation.


You also need to be able to walk away and take a break if you are feeling overwhelmed. Many times, caregivers can feel the need to be there constantly for the person they are providing care for, this is not the case. If you feel like you are drowning and you need to get away, it is okay to take a short vacation or take a few days off as long as your loved one is still being cared for and is safe.


Next Steps

People who suffer from dementia are more likely to deal with certain psychiatric disorders such as depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, anxiety and depression can lead to several different health consequences such as sadness, loneliness, increased heart rate, isolation, suicidal thoughts, and more. For many who deal with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illnesses, they are likely unable to live on their own and generally require the assistance of a caretaker of an assisted living facility, and, as mentioned before, many caretakers will adopt some of the symptoms that a patient may be suffering from.


If you are looking for more permanent help for your loved one, you can reach out to an assisted living facility in New Mexico, like Landmark Senior Living to help. Landmark has a dedicated staff that is committed to providing your loved one with quality care and time to help them with whatever issues that they may be dealing with. If you are interested in learning more about Landmark, and if you want to schedule a complimentary tour of one of our facilities, please visit our website today.


Learn More Here!


Topics: dementia care

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