Alzheimer’s disease progresses slowly, moving through three stages over an average of seven years. During the early stages of the disease, many people lose energy, although these signs can easily be missed. This lack of energy can continue and gradually worsen over time.
Learn more about what causes a lack of energy in people with Alzheimer’s, and what you can do to keep energy levels up throughout the disease.
Low Energy and Alzheimer’s
While each person is different and moves through the stages of Alzheimer’s in their own way, many people with the disease experience a drop in energy levels. It is often one of the first symptoms of the disease and can continue and worsen throughout the progression. Other causes of low energy and Alzheimer’s include:
1. A common cause of decreased energy in someone with Alzheimer’s is depression.
It is estimated that roughly 40% of people with Alzheimer’s also suffer from depression. Common symptoms to both depression and dementia include apathy, a loss of interest in activities, social isolation, trouble concentrating and impaired cognition. While someone with Alzheimer’s may experience less severe depression and may be less likely to talk about or attempt suicide, it is important that caregivers discuss these signs and symptoms with their doctor.
2. A lack of sleep can also contribute to lack of energy in someone with the disease.
Some people with Alzheimer’s experience sleep disturbances and changes or experience an increase in behavioral problems that begin at dusk. This is called Sundowning, and it is estimated that as many as 20% of people with Alzheimer’s will experience increased agitation, confusion and anxiety as the sun sets. This can bring restless nights and a disruption in the body’s sleep-wake cycle, resulting in decreased energy. Daylight Savings Time can also contribute to these sleep disturbances, because a loss of sunlight can increase Sundowner’s Syndrome symptoms, leading to low energy throughout the day.
3. Poor nutrition is another common culprit that robs people with Alzheimer’s of energy.
Many people with the disease may experience an increase in unhealthy food cravings. Eating sugary foods, while delicious, provide little to no long term energy. It is important that the body provides a steady supply of fuel and energy. To do this, encourage your loved one to follow a Mediterranean diet, avoid trans fats, increase omega-3 consumption, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Tips for Increasing Energy in Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease
For many people with Alzheimer’s, a decreased level of energy will occur as a progression of the disease.
But, there are some things caregivers can do to keep energy levels up longer:
- Medication for symptoms of depression
- Find a support group that will encourage and motivate your loved one
- Plan active days with fun activities and hobbies for your loved one
- Ensure there is time for regular exercise
- Celebrate small successes
- Find ways your loved one can contribute to family life
- Reassure them of your unconditional love and respect
- Avoid stimulants and large dinners
- Follow a Mediterranean diet for proper nutrition and sustained energy levels
How do you help your loved one with low energy and Alzheimer’s to stay engaged? Share your suggestions with us in the comments below.