Ask Deborah: Depression & Diagnosis of Early Stage Dementia

This article is reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer’s Association of the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Calif. chapter, and is excerpted from their quarterly publication Side by Side, Winter 2001/2002. Deborah Dunn MFT, is the director of patient and family services at the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Calif. chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Q: How should we help my mom cope with her depression over the recent diagnosis she received of early stage dementia?

A: It is natural for a person who is confirmed to have a serious medical diagnosis to feel depressed about it; it’s an appropriate reaction to the situation. It’s important that your mom’s physician monitor how she is coping over the next few months and whether she is able to move through the depression, rather than staying stuck in it.

You, and others close to her, can be of assistance in helping to evaluate how she is doing and to relay this information to her physician. I recommend that someone in the family accompany your mother to doctor appointments, for support and to help in keeping the doctor informed. After approximately three months, your mother should be feeling less depressed and moving on with coping and adjusting to how this diagnosis affects her daily life. If this is not the case, it is important to look at treatment options for her to alleviate the symptoms of depression. The newer antidepressant medications can offer relief for persons suffering from depression, as can individual counseling. A support group for your mother could be a vital link for her as soon after she is diagnosed with dementia as is possible, and, especially if she is suffering from depression as well.

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