Nov 17, 2011

Was Dotty Depressed? The Importance of Lifestyle, Positive Reinforcement, and Will Power

Was Dotty depressed? I think she was. What made the difference? Willpower!

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Bob DeMarco
Studies show that about 40 percent of Alzheimer's patients suffer from depression. If so, it is easy for me to understand why.

As you start to lose you ability to remember and accomplish specific tasks it has to be depressing, cognizant of dementia, or not.

Two things about Dotty. First, she was living by herself here in Delray Beach, Florida before I arrived on the scene. While I didn't know it at the time, she was spending a lot of time alone.

Second, Dotty had stopped socializing. She stopped going to the pool which had been a part of her daily routine for more than a decade. She stopped going to the lunches with her friends. Actually, they stopped inviting her because she had become very negative. I didn't learn about this until a few years after it happened.

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There was a long period, over two years, when Dotty didn't smile or laugh. This was "killing" me psychologically and emotionally. I was so busy trying to solve all the problems that come with dementia, I guess I didn't have enough time to get depressed myself.

The wonderful Dr Chiriboga did suggest that I consider a "psych" consult, and he did offer a "little pill". We never had the "psych" consult because I couldn't find anyone that had "good experience" with dementia patients and depression. Keep in mind, I was new to Delray and I just couldn't reach out, or find the right person. I still think it was a good idea though.

I passed on the pill for depression. By the time this came up, I had already decided I was not going to add any medication unless it was absolutely necessary. In fact, I was looking to lower the number of pills my mother was taking each day.

I decided on exercise in the gym as part of our routine. Over time, this reduced my mother's blood pressure medications from 3 medicines to one. Mission accomplished. Read this.

If you want to know the truth, once I had to time to address the issue of Dotty "not smiling or laughing", I was a man on a mission.

When it came to the depression I decided I would "will my mother to come back". Yes, I thought I could will it mostly by using "positive reinforcement" and making some important lifestyle changes.

No doubt the exercise helped. It did make Dotty more communicative and happy. But it did not solve the main problem.

Next, we went for the Mediterranean diet. The diet and exercise helped me reduce Dotty's weight and body mass. Still no solution to the main problem. Read this.

Finally, I read an article about how hypothyroidism can present as dementia. Talked to the Doc, had the test, and we went for a small dose of medication.

It worked almost instantly. Dotty smiled and she laughed -- loudly. My heart soared. Read this.

I guess you could say I was the one benefiting the most from "positive reinforcement" and "will power". Every time something worked I was energized and convinced we could accomplish more together.

Next we added in the bright light. Open up those curtains folks, get out in the sun, go into brightly lite stores. This does work and it works fast. At least 100 caregivers told me it works. Read this.

Along the way, we decided we would start living our life. This worked also.

I am thinking back to when Dotty was about 90. Can you believe that it was not unusual for Dotty and I to go out around 6 PM, and get back home after 11 PM. Oh yeah, we were living our life. Read this.

Ways to get caregiver respite? Get out and around people.

All kinds of wonderful people talked to Dotty when we were out. I met a bunch of really great people myself. You just have to find the right place. It didn't happen on the first few tries. You have to experiment. Give yourself a chance to get lucky.

For me. Well, they say if you had to decide would you rather be lucky or smart which one would you pick? Lucky of course.

I learned a long time ago you can make your own luck. Which brings me up to another saying. You can't win unless you get up to the table. More or less this means two things. You have to play the game, and you have to take some risk if you want to win.

Was Dotty depressed? I think she was. What made the difference? Willpower!

I thought I was willing Dotty to come back. But in retrospect, I was willing myself to succeed. Read this.

I guess you could say I was convinced from day one that I could bring Dotty back. That I would bring Dotty back.

Well, she smiles, she laughs, and she is no longer mean.

So I believe I can say, I did it.

Here is the best part, you can do it too.

Don't give me any crap about how if you met one person with Alzheimer's you met one person with Alzheimer's.

Think positive, and then start willing it to happen.

I'll close by saying this. I know that if she doesn't die first, sooner or later, Dotty will be bed ridden.

I want to say this as loud as I can. We will continue to live our life to the very end. How? I'm not sure yet. But I fully intend to figure it out when the time comes. I won't give up. Not ever.

Resist the urge to crap on our parade down in the comments area.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,101 articles with more than 452,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room