Avoiding Depression (part 3 of 3)

December 22, 2010

PART 3 – MEDICAL TREATMENT

We’ve covered what depression is, what the symptoms are and some behavioral treatments.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention medical treatments for dementia.  Sometimes, behavioral treatments are not enough and medication is necessary.  As the caregiver, if you see symptoms that concern you, document the type of symptoms, give a description, and note the frequency and duration over a week to a month.  Bring this to your loved one’s doctor visit.  If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it with your loved one in the room, send the physician a letter / e-mail detailing the information at least a few days BEFORE the visit, so the physician has time to review it.

Sudden changes in mood can be a result of medication changes, blood sugar issues, or other medical problems.  These possibilities need to be considered as part of the depression evaluation.

If your loved one’s doctor recommends medication, there are some things you should know:

1.  Regardless of what the pharmaceutical company advertisements may tell you, the newest medication on the market may not be the best for your loved one.  Some older tried and true medications available in generic form may actually be the best alternative for some patients.
2.  Different anti-depressant medications work in variety of ways.  Some help some symptoms more than others.  Your loved one’s doctor should consider all these things if they prescribe an anti-depressant.
3.  Anti-depressants take up to a few weeks to reach their full potency in the body.  Don’t expect immediate results.
4.  Medication works differently in different people.  Your loved one’s doctor may have to try several different medications over a period of months to find the one that works best.
5.  If your loved one is placed on a medication, keep a log (like the one recommended earlier) documenting the symptoms, frequency, duration, etc.  If you are concerned the medication isn’t working after the period of time when the doctor said it ought to have reached full effect, send the letter / e-mail to the doctor a couple of days before the visit and begin again.

Anti-depressant medications are not the silver bullet we would all like them to be, but they are one of the invaluable tools to combat depression in dementia patients.  Just like regulating anything else — blood sugar, blood pressure, etc. — it takes time to find what works for each person.  Be patient.

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