Aging / Dementia / Depression / Dying

Quick Facts

  • 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. 1 in 20 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
  • Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7% of U.S. adults experience major depressive disorder.
  • 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24.
  • Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.

What is Mental Illness?

A mental illness is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood may affect and his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.

Recovery, including meaningful roles in social life, school and work, is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.

A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, interlinking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle combine to influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits as well as basic brain structure may play a role too.

When it comes to mental illness, biological/medical factors can contribute, but environmental and other factors play a role as well. A mental imbalance may very well be the result of a medical condition or medication reaction. Therefore it is important to consult your physician to rule out medical factors which may affect the individual mental state.

Learn more at: http://www.nami.org

What is Depression?

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness.

Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.

There are several forms of depressive disorders:

  • Major depression — severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.
  • Persistent depressive disorder — depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.

Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. For more information go to: www.DEPRESSION.com

Depression Symptoms

Causes: Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, AND environmental conditions. Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too.

Symptoms: People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary depending on the person and the particular illness. (Speak to your physician about treatment)

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

For more information go to: www.DEPRESSION.com

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory, and reasoning that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Dementia is not a disease itself, but rather a group of symptoms that are caused by various diseases or conditions.

Is dementia different than Alzheimer’s?
DEMENTIA is a term that is often associated with the cognitive decline of aging. However, issues other than Alzheimer’s can cause dementia. Other common causes of dementia are Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Normal aging vs dementia
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are not a part of normal aging. Almost 40 percent of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss. When there is no underlying medical condition causing this memory loss, it is known as “age-associated memory impairment,” which is considered a part of the normal aging process. Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are different.

For more information: www.alzheimer.ca/

Normal Aging vs Dementia

Dementia is not normal aging. It is characterized by multiple cognitive deficits with memory impairments as a frequent early symptom.

normal-aging-vs-dementia
For more information: www.alzheimer.ca

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible and destroys brain cells, causing thinking ability and memory to deteriorate. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Dr. Alois Alzheimer first identified the disease in 1906. He described the two hallmarks of the disease: “plaques,” which are numerous tiny, dense deposits scattered throughout the brain that become toxic to brain cells at excessive levels, and “tangles,” which interfere with vital processes, eventually choking off the living cells. When brain cells degenerate and die, the brain markedly shrinks in some regions.

The image below shows that a person with Alzheimer’s disease has less brain tissue (right) than a person who does not have the disease (left). This shrinkage will continue over time, affecting how the brain functions.

alzheimers-disease

For the stages of Alzheimer’s Disease: http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/

The Effects of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal disease that eventually affects all aspects of a person’s life: how they think, feel, and act. Each person is affected differently. It is difficult to predict symptoms, the order in which they will appear, or the speed of their progression.

The following are some of the changes you may expect as the disease progresses.

Cognitive and functional abilities: a person’s ability to understand, think, remember and communicate will be affected. This could impact a person’s ability to make decisions, perform simple tasks, or follow a conversation. Sometimes people lose their way, or experience confusion and memory loss, initially for recent events and eventually for long-term events.

Emotions and moods: a person may appear apathetic and lose interest in favorite hobbies. Some people become less expressive and withdrawn.

Behaviour: a person may have reactions that seem out of character. Some common reactions include repeating the same action or words, hiding possessions, physical outbursts and restlessness.

Physical abilities: the disease can affect a person’s coordination and mobility, to the point of affecting their ability to perform day-to-day tasks such as eating, bathing and getting dressed.

Living Will Palative Care

The goal of care for people who are dying focuses on helping them enjoy as good a quality of life as possible. This may include relieving suffering; helping people stay as well as they can; and helping them achieve goals that are important to them before they die. This care is often provided by a mix of professionals, including those skilled in palliative care. These professionals will want to ensure that everyone affected by a terminal condition (including families and carers) knows about the choices they have and what support is available to them at this difficult time.