Advice for a person with dementia who thinks that they may be depressed

From the June 2015 issue of our magazine, Haran Sivapalan, Health and Wellbeing Knowledge Officer, looks at what a person with dementia might consider if they're feeling depressed.

'I was coping well after my dementia diagnosis last year, but recently I've been feeling low and listless. I think I might be depressed.'

We all feel low from time to time, but clinical depression is a mental illness where a person feels sad persistently over time.

Depression is common and people with dementia are more likely to experience it than other people.

If you feel low in mood nearly every day for at least a fortnight and lose interest in things you usually enjoy doing, then you might be depressed.

Other symptoms can include fatigue or low energy, changes in how you sleep or in your appetite, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

Certain events may trigger depression, including bereavement or losing a job - or being diagnosed with dementia. However depression often occurs without any obvious trigger.

What help is available?

If you think you could be depressed there are many places to get help, and talking to your GP is a good first port of call.

Your GP will assess how you're feeling and may rule out other causes with blood tests. If you are diagnosed with depression you may be offered antidepressant medication. This takes a week or two to start working, and you might only feel an effect after six to eight weeks.

Talking therapies from a trained professional, such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy, can also help by looking at your experiences, behaviours and patterns of thinking.

Other simple measures such as eating healthily, exercising regularly and socialising may help with low mood.

What if I'm feeling suicidal?

If you have thoughts of harming yourself in any way, this should be taken seriously. Speak to the Samaritans - call 08457 909090 or see www.samaritans.org - or go to A&E.

See our factsheet Depression and anxiety or call 0300 303 5933 to order.

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