Apathy, and anxiety are common conditions experienced by people with dementia. They are known as psychological conditions because they can affect a person’s emotional and mental health.
What is Apathy?
Apathy is a persistent loss of motivation to do things, or a lack of interest in things. It is different from depression. Many people feel short of ‘drive’ or ‘lose their ‘spark’ occasionally, but apathy is a consistent and persistent state of mind. Apathy is much more common among people with dementia than in older people without dementia. About 2–5% of older people without dementia have apathy at any one time, but
about 50–70% of people with dementia have apathy. These numbers are so significant that the relationship between dementia and apathy is unavoidable. Apathy can start at any stage of dementia but often develops early on. Many studies suggest that apathy becomes more common as dementia progresses. Once present, apathy tends to persist rather than come and go.
What are the symptoms of apathy?
A person with dementia and apathy will have less motivation, as well as
some or all of the following changes:
- lack of effort or energy to do everyday tasks
- lack of structuring their daily activities, and/or reliance on others to structure daily activities
- loss of interest new things, such as meeting people and current events
- lack of concern about their own problems or lack of planning to address these problems
- unemotional responses to news or personal events (news or events that would have received an emotional response prior to the dementia)
- lack of interest in friends and extended family
- lack of interest in hobbies and activities previously enjoyed
What can be done to help?
Although numerous studies have found that brain changes as a result of dementia are the main culprits of apathy, it does not mean that a person with dementia who has apathy is not able to have fun or enjoy themselves. It means it will take more effort and creativity to accomplish this. Creating as many opportunities as possible to socialize and reduce isolation is extremely important. Encouraging a person daily to perform activities that they used to enjoy is necessary and important. Having these activities close by and readily available is key. Creating an environment where activities are plentiful and different in scope is important. Addressing the apathy and isolation as soon as possible is key. The longer a person stays isolated the more likely that isolating lifestyle will become a habit that is harder to break.