Depression and Alzheimer’s Disease

Depression and Alzheimer’s disease- A More Important Link Than it Seems? (The Montessori method in the service of psychological care.)

This article on depression and Alzheimer’s disease was translated from: Dépression et maladie d’Alzheimer, un lien plus important qu’il n’y parait??? by  Emma VIDAL, Clinical psychologist and Montessori teacher. February 1, 2023.


Depression is a well-known disease in adults and the general public recognizes its symptoms quite well: sad mood, marked decrease in pleasure for activities, weight loss or gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, agitation or psychomotor slowing down, fatigue, feeling of devaluation, difficulties  concentrating.

If one pays attention to the symptoms listed, these are things that are often attributed to the elderly as being “normal” and even more so in people with a diagnosis of dementia.

In addition to all of these symptoms, depression is mainly manifested in the elderly by the presence of cognitive problems, complaints of pain, agitation and anxiety.

Alzeimer’s disease and depression form a vicious circle.

It is estimated that dementia and depression are the two most prevalent diseases in the elderly population. In addition, 40-50% of people with dementia also have symptoms of depression.

In the initial stage of dementia, cognitive problems lead to difficulties in daily life and a loss of autonomy. Awareness of these difficulties can lead to feelings of depression, self-deprecation and withdrawal.

Combined with the cognitive difficulties of dementia, the loss of autonomy is accelerated. The person feels powerless and no longer tries to fight against it. His caregivers also feel helpless and tend to do things for him.

How to differentiate the two?

Alzheimer’s disease is considered to be essentially cognitive while depression is essentially emotional. In reality, both share more in common than we imagine.

It is therefore sometimes difficult to differentiate the two.

So how do we act?

We have just highlighted that Alzheimer’s disease and depression share important consequences:

  • the decrease in social contact caused by withdrawal and difficulties in communicating with others
  • the loss of a sense of control caused by the loss of autonomy
  • disengagement from daily activities and pleasurable activities due to cognitive difficulties, loss of desire

Whether these difficulties come from Alzheimer’s disease, depression or both, we have ways to act and help. This is what the Montessori Method brings to us.

What can the Montessori Method do for us?

It has been observed in the literature that the ability to participate in social life and the possibility of feeling a sense of control are protective factors against depression. The implementation of meaningful activities is also part of the therapeutic work to overcome depression.

The Montessori approach, in its accompaniment of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, allows us to-

  • give the person the opportunity to express their choices
  • encourage the person’s involvement in activities by setting up activities adapted to the person and his/her abilities
  • rediscover a social role in order to regain the feeling of belonging to a community, essential to the well-being of every human being.

With the Montessori method, it becomes possible to have the tools to act on both the impacts of depression and Alzheimer’s disease in order to allow the person accompanied to feel good again.

12 Hour Certified Intensive Training in the Montessori Method Adapted for the Cognitively Impaired is available for individuals or groups. See the details here.