We are all aware that Dementia affects our physical and psychological state. Our mental health, however, is something we don’t always consider when discussing the effects of dementia.
Considering dementia is a disease that affects the brain, is it that surprising that it would affect an individual’s mental health also?
Depression is common in individuals with dementia. They are often confused and experience hallucinations that can lead to extreme panic and anxiety. This can result in their depression worsening. Memory loss in patients with dementia is different to memory loss due to ageing. People with dementia can experience extreme memory loss where they forget who they are and all their happy memories can fade away. This can affect their ability to work, do things with their family and friends and live their day-to-day life. All of these things that they can no longer do made them a happy person. Once that loss is felt, they can become very depressed and agitated and this causes a massive decline in their mental wellbeing.
Depression can also make dementia effects worsen and makes it harder for someone with dementia to enjoy their life. People in long term care tend to be at even more risk of developing a mental illness and depression. Other risks that may affect the mental health of people with dementia can include the side effects of their medication, their physical health and their reaction to the diagnosis.
It is difficult to know if a person with dementia is depressed as many of the symptoms of depression and dementia are similar. Some of the signs of depression in dementia are: loss of interest, lack of energy, poor sleep, loss of appetite and weight, increased confusion and being emotionally unavailable.
All of us, not just people who support and care for people with dementia, need to be aware of the mental health effects the disease brings. The more educated we are, the more we can raise awareness and make sure we take individuals’ mental health into consideration. Mental health is just as important as physical and psychological health.