Tag Archives: caregiver health

Depression and Dementia

My mom’s dementia diagnosis was confirmed years ago. She was plagued with anxiety and depression early on. In those days, I believed dementia was the chicken and depression was the egg. But a study now shows that depression may come first, prompting the development of dementia.

dementia and depression

It’s common for older people to experience some form of depression. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the issues below can incite depression:

  • Traumatic or upsetting events — These can trigger high levels of anxiety that continue long after the event is over.
  • The effects of illnesses or side-effects of medication — Agitation may be caused by pain, hunger or infection, for example.
  • Lack of social support or social isolation — This may occur because the person can no longer get out much.
  • Bereavement — The loss of a spouse or close friend can change a person’s mental health over night.
  • Lack of meaningful things to do — This can cause feelings of boredom and apathy.
  • Feeling stressed or worried — Issues such as money, relationships, or fears about the future can incite stress.
  •  Past history of depression or anxiety
  • A genetic predisposition to depression or anxiety

It’s easy to see how early memory loss could be aggravated by these matters. But  new research from European scientists suggests that people with such signs of depression may be more likely to get dementia.

Pintoa, Oliveiraa, Ribeiroa, and Fonseca at the Psychiatric Clinic of Mental Health in Portugal reviewed evidence which suggests that depression is a risk factor that may precede dementia. Their findings indicate that depression and dementia produce similar changes in the brain. The authors believe that dementia and depression have shared risk factors or “a common pattern of neurological damage.” Root causes for both can include vascular disease, amyloid plaques, and inflammatory changes.

What does this mean for you and the people you love? If someone in your family has been diagnosed with depression, they may be at higher risk for developing dementia. That uncle who lives by himself, the aunt who never goes out, or the caregiver who won’t take a break — they may need help to see the link between their habits and their health.

It’s hard to change our behavior, even when we know something is wrong. But there are good cheap antidotes that can instantly improve our quality of life. Healthy choices include joining a support group, finding a hobby, or participating in musical activities like choirs and dancing. Basic exercise like walking can help a lot. Make a visit, offer a suggestion. The simplest gesture can often make a difference.


Respite for Caregivers

During the long, cruel winter, caregivers in my region wore themselves out. Thank goodness we live in a place that spoils us with abundant spring beauty. Here are some gifts of the season found Between the Pond and the Woods. 

Between the Pond and the Woods

Daffodils in the wild

Other places in Pennsylvania warm up early and their plants are way ahead of ours. This region — the Poconos — lies at a higher altitude. Flowers open later here. We’re just beginning to see daffodils and hyacinths.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Weeping willow near our stream

Even the trees around here take their time pushing leaves out. Weeping willows (above) are the first to show some green. But the woods in Hickory Run State Park (below) still look pretty bare.

Between the Pond and the Woods

The winter freeze and thaw cycle was unrelenting. It uprooted many trees in our forests. You can see, above, how the roots of the tree lost their hold in the earth and just gave up. Don’t follow their example. Reach for the things that give you strength and hold on!

Between the Pond and the Woods

When trout season arrives, fishermen approach their hobby with great focus and lots of equipment. Anglers love the Lehigh River and its tributaries. This photo was taken along the banks of the Lehigh Gorge Trail. Our streams are running fast with spring rain and snow melt. Fish and fishermen are pleased.

Between the Pond and the Woods

All these little signs of beauty help restore my sense of optimism.  Being a caregiver can drain my strength. But nature is a great healer, especially at this time of year. If you can’t get out for a walk yourself, I hope you get a little boost from these photos.