Mental Health Awareness Month: Dementia Does Not Stop You From Improving Mental Health

Leah Health Guide
  • Having dementia has its drawbacks, but some of the drawbacks may NOT be as obvious as others. Mental health needs can often be overlooked due to the lack of outward symptoms seen by the caregiver. After all, I believe the thought has been why would a person with dementia need mental help? How much could counseling possibly help? Why not just medicate?


    I have dementia. It manifests itself through my short term memory loss and, what I call, "common sense". These are just some of the typical symptoms of dementia. I also have a degree of depression, as do many of us with dementia. Depression is often treated medicinally. But not all types of depression call for medication. Many can be treated through cognitive therapy. Unfortunately, the study and use of counseling has been largely overlooked for those of us with dementia.

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    I read an interesting study by Kerstin Stieber Roger, PhD of Toronto, entitled Priorities for People Living with Dementia: Education, Counseling, Research. Ms. Roger is a member of the Department of Family Social Services, Facility of Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba, Canada. The focus of the study was to look at the memory loss experiences of those living with dementia. It is Ms. Roger's thought that the perspectives of people living with dementia need to be represented more often. Thankfully, we have people like Ms. Roger who show an interest in improving the lives of the elderly, and in particular, those of us with dementia. This particular study chose participants from three organizations providing services and programs for people with Alzheimers and Huntington's disease in central Canada. To prove that each participant had the ability to be interviewed, each one was given a seven point test which had to be passed. Twenty-two subjects were chosen... (I will continue to review Ms. Roger's study in my next blog).


    My interest in mental health has been brought about by my own struggle in dealing with the issues brought up in my own life. I have begun to see a cognitive therapist (in addition to the minimal dosage of Cymbalta which I have been prescribed by my neurologist). There seemed to be a number of issues bombarding me which literally drove me to seeing a therapist. The Cymbalta just was not solving the emotional/mental problems I was encountering. Increasing the medication-or adding another one to it-was NOT an option as far as I was concerned. Through my time with my therapist, I have been able to pinpoint the origin of my current mental dilemma. I seem to be experiencing some existential difficulties, probably brought on by my dementia and recent family deaths. After a lifetime of having a very high IQ and "things" always coming quickly to me, I find that the dementia I thought I could conquer-like everything I've been able to do in the past-is ultimately unconquerable, and I have become angry about that. I am learning to recognize my anger and its source. I must learn not to be so hard on myself....


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    How many people reading this blog have dementia themselves? How many are experiencing some form of depression? How many have an underlying anger with which they are not dealing? I hope to reach you in the upcoming blogs.


    How many caregivers are reading this blog, caring for dementia sufferers who seem depressed...and maybe angry? Perhaps, you will understand what may be going through the mind of your loved one. More understanding could give you better insight into more helpful techniques to use with the dementia sufferer.


    I look forward to sharing my journey into better mental health with you all. I hope that I can help to put into the forefront the need for counseling for those with dementia. Ms. Roger's study will back up my ideas. Her study will be further developed in upcoming blogs.


Published On: May 18, 2010