Currently, about seven percent of older adults over the age of 60 suffer from clinical depression, though the condition is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Depression is more than feelings of sadness or loneliness; it can cause low energy levels, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, too much or too little sleep and over or under eating. Most importantly, depression can lead to poorer health outcomes down the line, including changes in thinking and cognitive decline.
Although medications prescribed by your primary physician can provide some relief for disrupted mood, energy, eating, sleeping and motivation, it has not been shown to improve cognition. In a study published in The Lancet, an international research team found that antidepressant medication that improved clinical depression did not improve cognitive functioning in the following five domains: attention, response inhibition, verbal memory, decision speed and information processing.
It appears that impairments in higher-order cognitive functions associated with depression persist regardless of pharmacological treatment. This makes sense considering that the purpose of antidepressants is to elevate mood and not boost cognitive performance.
Licensed clinical psychologist James Cartreine, PhD, argues that improving cognitive health in depressed patients should include some sort of cognitive stimulation program along with prescribed antidepressants. It is important to treat all effects of depression for optimal mental health and well-being.
If you or a senior loved one is suffering from depression, we recommend starting with a healthy lifestyle, which includes well-balanced meals and light physical activity, as well as stress-reducing exercises and socialization. An in-person visit to check in with friends weekly, if possible, or the companionship of a dog can greatly benefit an individual’s mood and mental health. We also recommend seeking help from your doctor to treat the depression.
Depressed patients benefit from cognitive stimulation and Home Care Assistance offers the Cognitive Therapeutics Method?, an in-home activities program designed to promote brain health by engaging five areas in the brain: memory, executive functioning, attention, visual-spatial perception and language. To learn more about the method and other brain health tips, visit www.CognitiveTherapeutics.com.