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Senior Health: Dementia? Or Depression?

By Ilse du Bernard, 9:00 am on

If your elderly loved one has a dementia-related condition, identifying underlying depression can be very difficult due to overlapping symptoms. Conversely, depression can be easily misdiagnosed as dementia. Therefore, having a better idea of symptoms unique to depression and dementia can help you and your loved one’s doctor achieve a more accurate a diagnosis.

When Dementia Is Really Depression

North Houston elder care experts understand seniors experience normal ups and downs like anybody else. Lingering depression, however, can produce symptoms such as forgetfulness and confusion that may be mistaken for early stages of dementia-related conditions like Alzheimer’s and some forms of Parkinson’s disease. Depression in seniors can be the result of a lack of activity, boredom, or even a reaction to a mix of medications. Common depression symptoms include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Sudden aches and pains (with no apparent physical reason)
  • Changes in eating habits (eating too much or not eating previously enjoyed foods)

When Depression Is Complicating Dementia

Seniors with dementia may be incorrectly diagnosed as being depressed or vice versa. During moments of clarity, for instance, your loved one may realize that something is happening to them and begin to feel depressed out of a fear of not knowing what’s to come with their condition. Having regular conversations with your loved one–even if it’s just asking “How are you feeling today?”–can help you determine if depression may be an issue that needs to be treated along with their dementia. Symptoms unique to dementia can include:

  • Consistent difficulty determining time and place
  • Diminished awareness that remains after depression is identified and treated
  • Covering up moments of forgetfulness (people with dementia often feel embarrassed about not being able to remember)

Differentiating between depression and dementia requires careful observation, ongoing communication with your loved one’s doctors and a better understanding of what can cause depression in seniors with or without dementia. The good news for in-home caregivers is that depression is highly treatable and some forms of dementia can be also treated with medication.

Whether your senior loved one is exhibiting signs of depression or dementia, it’s important to schedule an appointment with his or her physician immediately. After determining the root cause of the symptoms, you might also consider long-term care options, including North Houston dementia care, Alzheimer’s care, or Parkinson’s care. At Home Care Assistance, our caregivers are highly trained to assist seniors who have memory conditions and manage the complex symptoms that often accompany those conditions. To learn more, please call us at 832-412-1345 and speak with a friendly Care Manager today.