As some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression can also be associated with dementia, they may be put down to the person’s diagnosis and overlooked as separate issues.
Similarly, the early symptoms of dementia, like poor concentration, sleep disturbance and changes in mood and behaviour, can sometimes be misdiagnosed as depression.
This can result in a delay in diagnosing dementia and receiving the right treatment and support.
People sometimes assume that someone with dementia is unable to experience anxiety or depression, but this is not the case – it is thought that emotions remain intact even though they may not be able to communicate them.
These difficulties with communication, and the isolation and frustration they can cause, may worsen the person’s anxiety and depression.
They may find it hard to keep up with socialising and other activities that they usually enjoy, leading to loneliness and low mood.
It’s a good idea to look out for the physical signs of depression or anxiety, as listed above, as they may indicate there is a problem the person is unable to express verbally.
A person with dementia experiencing anxiety or depression may pace up and down, fidget or become agitated. They might follow someone they live with around the house, seeking reassurance, and may want to go to a place they feel safe.
They might also find it hard to control their emotions due to the effects of dementia on the brain – for example, they might become excessively angry if they are unable to do something, or cry uncontrollably about something that would not usually upset them.
It is important for the person with dementia to see their GP if there are concerns about depression or anxiety. In some cases, the GP may refer the person to a specialist such as a psychiatrist/old age psychiatrist.
Seeking professional help is essential if the person has thoughts of self-harm or suicide, so you should make an urgent appointment with their GP or call 111 for advice.
If you believe the person is in imminent danger of harming themself, you should take them to A&E.
If you would like to speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse about anxiety and depression or any other aspect of dementia, call our free Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm, every day except 25th December) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.