Apathy in the Elderly Could be an Early Sign of Dementia: Study
Apathy in the Elderly
Could be an Early Sign of
Legacy House Avondale
An individual with apathy exhibits a lack of energy or enthusiasm. A majority of people who
experience it claim that they are not motivated to do anything.
While anyone can become apathetic, there has been documentation showing how apathy
tends to affect the health of individuals in their golden years. According to a study published
in the journal Neurology, apathy (or indifference) during old age could point to a shrinking
brain, which may be an early indication of dementia.
Apathy Associated with Decreased Brain Volume
The study involved 4,354 individuals with an average age of 76 and who are not diagnosed
with dementia. Researchers measured brain volume using an MRI scan to look for signs of
advanced brain aging. They also asked the subjects to find out whether they displayed
symptoms of apathy, which include decreased energy, preferring to stay home, giving up
favorite activities, and lack of emotion or interest.
The findings revealed that participants who reported more than one symptom of apathy had a
1.4 percent smaller volume of gray matter, which is the area of the brain responsible for
storing memories. Researchers also found that these participants had a smaller white matter.
The part links different areas of the brain.
Preventing Apathy for People with Dementia
Fortunately, a solution exists to treat the problem of apathy in the elderly. According to a
separate study, seniors with dementia living in a nursing home are less likely to be apathetic
if they live in a stimulating environment. The results of the study showed a relationship
between lower apathy and strong and clear environmental stimulation. An excellent example
of such stimulation would be an environment with a straightforward stimulus and without
competing background noise. Therapists, in this case, can lead a music therapy class for
residents in an otherwise quiet room.
Ying-Ling Jao, the author of the nursing home study, remarks that the findings will guide
people in designing appropriate social and physical environments for dementia care that helps
minimize or prevent apathy.