Is It Depression or Dementia? Here are Some Clues.


Spending time with Mom recently brought to light several concerning signs. Although she’s always been up at the crack of dawn, now it’s hard to wake her before noon. Instead of pulling out all the stops for an elaborate home-cooked meal, she prefers to simply heat up a can of soup; and can barely finish a small bowlful. Not only that, but she’s lost interest in spending time with her beloved friends from church. Could she be suffering from depression or dementia?

There are a number of similarities between the two, including:

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

There are, however, several telltale differences to help discern whether depression or dementia could be at play:

Dementia:

  • A gradual decline in mental functioning
  • Trouble with short-term memory
  • Noticeable impairment with motor and/or language skills
  • Problems with memory, without being aware of these problems
  • Confusion in knowing the correct date, time, and surroundings

Depression:

  • A more rapid decline in mental functioning
  • Problems with concentrating
  • A bit slower, but still normal motor and language abilities
  • Struggling with memory issues, but being aware of the struggle
  • Aware of correct date, time and surroundings

Sometimes, both conditions can affect a person simultaneously. 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 depression or dementia in a senior loved one, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with his or her doctor. Receiving a correct diagnosis and beginning a treatment plan is critical.

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

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with either depression or dementia, or struggles with any other challenges of aging, Well-Being Home Care of New Jersey can help. With our full range of senior home care services, such as companionship, assistance with meals, errands, and housekeeping, transportation, and personal care services, we’re here for whatever particular needs your loved one is facing. Contact us at 800-413-0013 to learn more or to schedule a free in-home consultation.