Care Tip: Depression in the Elderly May Resemble Dementia

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Spending time with Mom recently brought to light several unsettling signs. While she’s always been up and out of bed before 7 a.m., now it is difficult for her to wake up before lunchtime. Rather than pulling out all the stops for an elaborate home-cooked meal, she prefers to merely heat up a can of soup; and she can barely finish a small bowlful. Additionally, she has lost interest in spending time with her friends from church. Might she be struggling with symptoms of dementia or depression? 

Depression in the elderly may resemble dementia. Similarities include: 

  • Eating and sleeping pattern changes
  • Disinterest in previously enjoyed interests and hobbies, and spending time with family and friends
  • A decrease in memory and the ability to focus

However, there are also a number of distinguishing differences to help determine whether depression or dementia could be at play:

Dementia:

  • A slow, progressive decline in mental functioning
  • Noticeable problems with motor and/or language skills
  • Challenges with memory, without being aware of these problems
  • Disorientation in knowing the current date, time, and surroundings

Depression:

  • A faster decline in mental functioning
  • Problems with concentrating
  • Somewhat slower, but still normal motor and language skills
  • Difficulty with memory issues, but being aware of the problem
  • Consciousness of current date, time and surroundings

Sometimes, both health concerns can impact a person at the same time. Brent Forester, MD, director of the mood disorders division in the geriatric psychiatry research program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, shares, “40 to 50% of people with Alzheimer’s disease get depression, but depression also may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.”

If you suspect either symptoms of dementia or depression in a senior you love, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with the senior’s doctor. Obtaining a correct diagnosis and beginning a treatment plan is essential. 

Help for depression might include an antidepressant and professional counseling, or hospitalization if the symptoms are severe and require more intensive treatment. Dementia care commonly involves medications that help with particular symptoms, such as sleep problems, memory loss, or changes in behavior. 

If a senior you love has been diagnosed with either depression or dementia, or is struggling with any other difficulties of aging, Stay Home Care offers Nashville, TN elder care as well as care throughout the surrounding areas that can help. With our full variety of senior home care services, such as companionship, meal preparation, errand-running, housekeeping, transportation, and personal hygiene care, we’re here for whatever particular needs your loved one is facing. Contact us online or at 615-964-7726 for more information or to request a free in-home consultation.