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Apathy: When Dementia Patients Don’t Care, We Do

The old joke goes, “An interviewer approached a man on the street and said, ‘The two greatest problems with society are ignorance and apathy. Do you agree?’ The man responded, ‘I don’t know and I don’t care!’”

There is nothing funny about apathy, but it affects about 90% of dementia patients sooner or later. Yet research often doesn’t seem to care. It is often overlooked because it is not as noticeable or disruptive as aggression and other behaviors, and is distinct from depression.

Apathy is a loss of interest and emotions. It can be distressing for families, and is linked with more severe dementia and worse clinical symptoms. Faster decline and care problems can result. Apathy is the most common symptom of dementia, with a bigger impact than memory loss.

People with dementia are less likely to be apathetic if they live in an appropriately stimulating environment. Those with mild dementia will decline more quickly into severe dementia if they also suffer from apathy. Studies show that moderate stimulation can lift people out of their apathy.

Persons with dementia who are also apathetic won’t be curious about the world around them. They are not motivated to carry out activity nor engage with those around them, in either a positive or a negative way. The individuals’ cognitive function will likely decline faster, and caregivers will have more difficulty with their caregiving and are more likely to become depressed. Where people withdraw from activities, it can accelerate cognitive decline, and there are higher mortality rates in people with apathy. We at South Mountain Memory Care are not apathetic about our residents’ needs, and seek to keep apathy at bay.

South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. South Mountain Memory Care is proud to offer a wide range of resident-focused daily activity programming to our residents. Each neighborhood offers activity space for group and one-on-one activities.

The brand-new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs, are designed to serve residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites. South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to

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