Care Partner Apathy


One of the many symptoms of dementia is apathy. Often due to damage to the frontal lobes of their brain. This part of the brain controls our motivation, planning and sequencing of tasks.


Neuroscientists have found that apathy happens because of problems in the brain’s motivation pathways. For example, if 100 people have Alzheimer’s disease, about 80% will develop apathy as a symptom. Sometimes apathy happens before memory problems.

What is Apathy?

  • A symptom of dementia
  • Loss of interest and ability
  • Although losing interest may not seem like a behavioural issue; it is, and can be very hard for care partners to cope with
  • Apathy is different than depression and the signs can often be mistaken for each other.

How apathy can present:

  1. Affective
    1. Emotional blunting
    2. Loss of empathy
    3. indifference
  2. Behavioural
    1. Social withdrawal
    2. Loss of self-initiation
    3. Need prompting
    4. Poor persistance
  3. Cognitive
    1. Lack of interest in routine or new activities
    2. Difficulty planning and doing activities
    3. Reduced curiosity

How to Help:

  • Make One Change at a Time
  • Small steps
  • Use positive language
  • Use incentives but not “if you don’t… you won’t”
  • Have others encourage
  • Create the right environment
  • Be aware of good days and bad days
  • Are they just having difficulty with the task?
  • Instead of saying, “do you want to?” say, “it is time to…”
  • Be flexible on how things can be done
  • Pick successful activities, avoid things that overwhelm
  • At times, they may respond better to non-family caregivers when it comes to initiating and participating in activities.

For more information visit on apathy and approach in care please contact Alzheimer Staff.