Coping with an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can be difficult, as an individual is often unable to do things previously associated with his or her sense of identity, increasing feelings of anxiety surrounding what the future holds. The Alzheimer’s Association explains that people dealing with this progressive form of dementia typically express denial, anger, sadness, resentment, fear, isolation and a sense of loss when first coming to terms with a diagnosis. In some cases, depression develops. While it is true that a person’s identity changes when faced with these challenges, the Alzheimer’s Association encourages people to continue to stay active, stating, “Your personal sense of self comes from within.”
There are many coping tools suggested by specialists to alleviate trauma during the early stages of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Individuals are encouraged to speak openly about their fears and concerns, surrounding themselves with a strong support system. While it is helpful to lean on family and friends for support, this can also be challenging as loved ones mourn the news from a different perspective. In this sense, connecting with others recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s helps the recently diagnosed process their feelings and realize they are not alone in the struggle. Journaling can also be a therapeutic practice for those struggling with early stages of dementia. Most of all, people recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their families need to take the time they need to grieve.
Sadness over an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is natural. In some cases, this sadness is long-lasting and interferes with everyday functioning, indicating the development of depression. A 1989 meta-analysis of studies entitled “Overview of Depression and Psychosis in Alzheimer’s Disease” found that approximately 30 to 40 percent of participants with Alzheimer’s also struggled with depressive and/or psychotic symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) cautions that depression and dementia can present similar symptoms, making it difficult to determine which is occurring or if they are co-occurring. For instance, general apathy, insomnia, restlessness and memory loss can be symptoms of both conditions. It is important to seek a professional medical diagnosis if depression is suspected in someone struggling with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, though AFA states that most cases of depression in Alzheimer’s patients are mild to moderate and do not include suicidal ideation or actions.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression in the wake of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, help is available. Sovereign Health Group specializes in treating individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse issues and dual diagnosis. Call (866) 819-0427 to speak with a professional today.
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Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer