Can loneliness and depression lead to Dementia in seniors?

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My father-in-law is making serious accusations regarding family members. These accusations are from left-field and are targeted to in-laws that he resents whom he feels caused his divorce over 3 decades ago. Is it possible he may in the early onset of Alzheimer's or is depressed?

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I think 2 things are most likely happening. First I think your father inlaw is probably some what isolated, meaning he doesn't have the same level of interaction he did when he was younger. No supporting friendships (outside of family) to lean on and interact with. I've found that social interaction is key to good mental health, we need to feel valued, heard and part of something larger than ourselves. Without those valuable components we tend to feel depressed, paranoid and a little suspicious of others too much time on our hands send the mind off on imaginative journeys and usually not good ones. Second, it's also possibly in-part do to aging pay close attention to signs like forgetfulness, appearance, level of agitation. but again all those problems in some ways relate back to less socialization. Encourage him to get involved with others his own age. We are human beings that need each other. Good luck. (I have a severely mental ill father and a mother with brain injury so I get these behaviors, I've experienced them first hand).
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Depression in any situation needs to be watched carefully as it can be very damaging to the overall health. The Dr. should be made aware of this depression and have him monitored. It could very well be that he is in the early onset of dementia, but the question here is his triggers. Is there any truth to his accusations against these other family members? Try to get him to talk about why he is saying these things. He obviously was troubled about the divorce and resents any interference that may have taken place. Try to hear him out but most of all get his Dr. involved with his depression. Hope this helps some and best of luck.
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Thank you all for your comments. He recently had a routine check-up, cholesterol, blood, heart testing, all with good results, but I don't believe he's ever been checked for his mental health well being.
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Pstegman, that is very interesting. I didn't know that about the statins. I have thought that the push for such low cholesterol didn't see very healthy. This is particularly true for women, who have naturally higher cholesterol. I'm of the old school where I don't worry about cholesterol as long as it is below 200-250 and has a lot of the good type.
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Jessie, we can all expect some degree of dementia as we age. Many things affect brain function, for example, low cholesterol would injure brain cells, but high cholesterol would clog the blood vessels feeding the brain. It's all about a system running in a chemically balanced mode. So let's say you are 80, you kidneys run at 50%, so does your heart, liver and lungs. Your brain is marginally functional. Add steroids to treat COPD or arthritis and things get better. But one patient decided if 10mg was good , 100mg would be terrific. He showed all the rage and confusion of Alzheimer's. Fortunately he told his MD he had upped the dose, so they got him off the steroids and the symptoms went away. So the sage advice is, All Things in Moderation. Then there is the problem with statins. OK, they clear up the cholesterol, but when the MD's starting shooting for ultra-low cholesterol counts, trying to keep it at 140 by doubling the statins, they had an AHA! moment because dementia cases shot up dramatically as did liver dysfunction. Sometimes less is more.
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There is some thought that chronic elevation of cortisol may contribute to dementia. Cortisol is a hormone that is made by the adrenals. We make more cortisol when we're under stress. Anxiety and depression are stressors, so I imagine that long-term their effects are bad on the brain. From what I've read, the cortisol acts on the area of the brain -- the hippocampus -- that is linked with Alzheimer's. I read that some scientists are doing research on cortisol. Of course, big questions here would be how much cortisol and how long? And if someone already has dementia, would cortisol make it go faster? These are very interesting questions.
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Depression mimics dementia so get him tested usually a brain scan and memory tests. My doc kept telling me my mum had depression i argued for 3yrs until i finally got a private opinion he did a brain scan and confirmed my fears that it was "dementia" my mum suffered from light depression most of her life but i think we know when its getting serious and he needs to be diagnosed properly.
My advice would be to find a good geriatrician i find them much better than GPs and have much more experience with this.

I realised mum had something worse when she was continually doing dangerous things and not understanding just how dangerous this was she had lost all sense of reasoning.
But get an expert to diagnose as it could be "deep depression". I dont think depression causes dementia BUT if you become inactive and dont get some excercise and spend too much time doing nothing your brain will deteriorate. Dementia can cause depression in some my mum seems less depressed now but when she was told at first she had some depression then came denial and here we are............. TOTAL DENIAL
I hope its just depression but i think you will know yourself that somethings not right.
Also be prepared to have "dirty secrets revealed" as to family my mum came out with alot of family stuff that we found out to be true that shed never have told us before?
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We don't fully understand what causes most kinds of dementia.

It is entirely possible that your FIL's behavior indicates the beginning of dementia. It is more likely that the dementia is causing the obsession with his divorce than the other way around. He could also be depressed or have other mental/emotional problems.

Whatever the cause, it would be ideal for him to be evaluated by a doctor. Do you have the kind of relationship with him that you could bring that about?

Meanwhile, if you are a targeted in-law, consider the source. You don't need to defend yourself or dwell on the accusations.
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Yes, in my experience dementia can worsen with loneliness and depression and both are related. My mom has been diagnosed with dementia and lives long distance from family. She is 90 and has isolated herself from friends and neighbors as well. With little to no outside contact, I've witnessed her dementia worsen -- this manifesting itself as paranoia, accusations, confusion of facts and reality.

As Psteg suggests, get him to dr and request full medical mental health work up. As I've suggested before, document all your observations, crazy things he says or believes and send them in advance to the dr so he can direct his questions and exam to uncover any underlying issues. Dr may suggest neurologist exam as well.

In my moms case they prescribed antidepressants, aricept, namenda, anti anxiety but the drugs didn't improve her and mom eventually refused to take them saying "I don't feel myself". She stopped altogether and I have to say as long as she is engaged, I can call or visit, and she goes for walks or is out and about more, she functions very well and a lot of the paranoia, craziness, confusion dissipates or happens infrequently.

My point, is isolation, loss of friends, family, interaction with the outside world can exascerbate dementia. I have learned not to try to set the story straight, I hear her out, and take a deep breath and don't react to her accusations.

Good luck.
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