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COPING WITH ALZHEIMERS DEPRESSION & ANXIETY:
A GUIDE FOR CAREGIVERS

Alzheimer's and depression often go hand in hand. An estimated 40 percent of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease may also suffer from depression. While Alzheimer's can't be cured, symptoms of depression can be treated successfully with a combination of medications, support from friends and family, lifestyle changes, and
medications. Although your relative will still experience memory loss, she will feel better, her mood will improve along with her ability to care for herself and she'll enjoy her life again.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
Symptoms of depression in older adults with memory loss are similar to those of younger people. They seem sad, hopeless, and discouraged and no longer take interest in activities they used to enjoy. Depressed people often have trouble sleeping at night or nap frequently during the day. Older adults suffering from depression have poor
appetites and often skip meals. They may express feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness and may be overly anxious or worrisome.

SUICIDE AND DEPRESSION
Some depressed older people may even talk about suicide. Older adults have higher suicide rates than any other age group. People of any age who threaten suicide must be taken seriously. If your parent mentions ending her life seek help from her doctor or another health care professional immediately.

DIAGNOSING DEPRESSION
Depression in older people must be taken seriously. If you suspect that your older relative is depressed, schedule an appointment with her primary care doctor for a thorough physical and mental health evaluation. Before the appointment write down your concerns about your parent's memory and behavior changes and take notes during the
exam. Give the doctor a list of all the medications your parent currently takes including prescription and over-the-counter drugs. They often have unpleasant side effects — dry mouth, nausea, insomnia, nervousness, and headaches — and may interact with other medicines your parent takes.

MEDICATIONS FOR DEPRESSION
Your parent's doctor may suggest an antidepressant medication to treat her depression. Antidepressants affect chemicals in the brain that control brain function and help improve your parent's mood. Understand that it can take four to six months for antidepressants to be effective and for your older relative to begin to feel better. If he decides to try an antidepressant encourage him to be patient and give the medication time to work. Be sure you both are aware of potential side effects and report them promptly to the doctor if they occur. Don't hesitate to call the doctor if you have more questions or need additional information about the medication he or she prescribed. Together you can decide if the potential benefits of these medicines to your parent's health outweigh potential side
effects.

LIGHTEN YOUR PARENT'S MOOD
Work with your parent to make his home a calm, cozy, safe place to live. Make sure the temperature is comfortable. It's good for him or her to get out of the house so make a date for activities you can enjoy together — watching old movies on TV, visiting friends, shopping for groceries, going to the library, walking in the park. Your outings will give your parent something to look forward to and you'll have the opportunity to check in on her physical, mental and emotional health.

A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.