Helping your relative to deal with depression
I’ve read that about 40% of people with dementia suffer depression. In mum’s case that was expressed by increasingly expressing feelings of worthlessness and sadness. I’d hear her talking to herself “what’s the matter with me? I’m stupid, I can’t do anything for myself” and often she would sit with her head in her hands, saying over and over again “they’re all dead” – when thinking about people she had known and loved in the past.
Initially we thought she was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder because it always seemed to be more prevalent in winter, but actually I think we just wanted to find a label to attach to the way mum was feeling. It took a while to realise she was suffering from depression, and we weren’t sure if this was something her doctor could help her with, or whether it was sadly just another symptom of dementia and that she would have to put up with it – which we didn’t want to have happen.
A conversation with her doctor resulted in her being prescribed with anti-depressants for a month. It took a few weeks to see the result but she was clearly feeling in a lighter mood and the episodes of expressing sadness and worthlessness became less frequent. She began to sleep better too.
There is useful information online in how to help someone with dementia to deal with depression but in the first instance a conversation with your relative and their GP may be the way to begin to support them.