Diagnosing and Treating Depression in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease
Although cognitive and functional impairment are the hallmark features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with AD account for increased rates of disability and profoundly impact the quality of life of both patients and their caregivers. This narrative review of current evidence provides practical guidance in diagnosing and managing depression in patients with AD using pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions. After apathy, depression is the second most common neuropsychiatric symptom in AD. Diagnosing late-life depression (LLD), particularly in those affected by AD, is complicated because older patients may not meet the criteria for a major depressive disorder. Clinically, late-life depression and dementia can be indistinguishable. Although these two entities are now thought to be related, the pathologic mechanisms remain unclear. Evidence suggests that LLD may be a prodromal symptom of neurodegenerative disease. The various geropsychiatric measures currently used to diagnose, rate the severity of, and monitor the progress of treatment for depression are imperfect. Neuroimaging represents a promising avenue toward understanding the complex pathophysiologic relationships between dementia and LLD, and will support the pursuit of biomarker-driven diagnosis and treatment. Nonpharmacologic interventions to relieve depression in persons with cognitive impairment and dementia include emotion-oriented therapies, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral modification programs, and structured activity programs. Sensory-stimulation therapies and multisensory approaches show some promise for successfully treating depression in patients with dementia, but further rigorous research is needed to establish their validity. Clinical consensus and research appear to support selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors as a first choice for the pharmacological treatment of depression in patients with dementia. However, initial support for these therapies remains variable, and further investigation is needed. Extra care is required in prescribing to this population because of the generally high level of medical and psychiatric comorbidity and the potential difficulty in assessing the cognitively impaired patient’s response.
Neurology and Therapy
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Burke, Anna D.; Goldfarb, Danielle; Bollam, Padmaja; and Khokher, Sehar, "Diagnosing and Treating Depression in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease" (2019). Neurology. 666.