Scroll Down Scroll Up

Older Adult Mental Health Week

1 - 10 October is Older Adult Mental Health Week, an important time to increase awareness about depression and anxiety which can occur with, or following, a dementia diagnosis.
Up to 70% of people with dementia experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. These symptoms include low mood or feeling sad or blue, constant worry or feeling stressed, crying more than usual, feeling tired a lot, having trouble sleeping (either falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early), and loss of interest in things they used to enjoy.

About 30-40% of people with dementia have clinical depression or anxiety which means they have more severe or persistent symptoms. Scientists think the brain changes related to dementia might also cause depression or anxiety. The symptoms can also be a reaction to being given a diagnosis of dementia, or to lifestyle changes because the person has dementia.

“There is hope and a lot of it has to come from within you. You have to understand and accept the diagnosis. As soon as you can do that, you can start moving on with your life,” Bill Yeates, Dementia Advocate.

Counselling, including grief and loss counselling, and cognitive behaviour therapy can help people manage their depression or anxiety.

Get support

  • Dementia Australia offer free, confidential, professional counselling for individuals, families, couples and professional carers at all stages of a dementia journey. To access this service call the National Dementia Helpline on free call 1800 100 500.
  • Dementia Advisors are available through most of Australia. They offer a range of information, as well as group and one-on-one sessions and can support you to obtain other supports and services. There is no central contact point for the Dementia Advisory Service, search through Google to see if there is one available in your area.
  • Find a psychologist (ideally with experience working with older people, or people with dementia). Note that this service may not be subsidised unless you have a Mental Health Treatment Plan (see below). Sometimes private health insurance covers some of the costs.
  • If you are experiencing relationship conflict with a loved one, use Relationships Australia. They have Senior Relationship Services counsellors and mediators trained in elder mediation and counselling with specific skills in delivering services to people experiencing conflict about ageing-related issues.  They have professional qualifications and experience in social work, psychology, mediation, law and/or counselling, and receive on-going training and professional supervision.
  • Talk to your GP about how you’re feeling. They can assess your mood and give you a Mental Health Treatment Plan if needed. A mental health plan means you can get up to 20 subsidised visits to see a psychologist, occupational therapist or social worker each year.
  • Medications can help with depression and anxiety, though they are not always effective for people with dementia. Talk to your GP if you want to try medication to see if it will help.
  • Beyond blue have useful resources for older people on managing mood.

Other supports

People with dementia and carers find attending an education and support group helpful, such as the Dementia Alliance International peer-to-peer support groups. You can learn more about dementia, share stories and make friends with others going through the same experience. For many people, meeting others living positively with dementia is a turning point in finding hope.

There are also post-diagnostic support programs for people recently diagnosed and their carers. These programs can help you to adjust to the diagnosis and provide support and practical strategies to stay living at home.


Learn from others with dementia and their carers

If you are finding it difficult to come to terms with your dementia diagnosis, the following stories may help: