Are They Signs of Depression or Dementia?

Spending time with mom recently uncovered some questionable signs. Although she has always been up at the crack of dawn, now it’s difficult for her to wake up before lunchtime. Rather than preparing an elaborate home-cooked meal, she would rather merely heat up a can of soup; and she can barely finish a small bowlful. Furthermore, she’s lost interest in visiting with her best buddies from the neighborhood. Are these signs of depression or dementia?

There are some similarities between the two, including:

  • Sleeping and eating pattern changes
  • A reduced interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies, and spending time with friends and family
  • Reduced memory and the ability to focus

There are, however, a variety of telltale differences to help identify whether depression or dementia could be at play:

Signs of Dementia:

  • A gradual decline in mental functioning
  • Difficulty with short-term memory, although the person is unaware of these problems
  • Noticeable problems with motor and/or language skills
  • Confusion in knowing the correct date, time, and environment

Signs of Depression:

  • A more rapid decline in mental functioning
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • A bit slower, but still normal motor and language abilities
  • Difficulty with memory issues, but being aware of the challenge
  • Aware of current date, time and environment

Sometimes, both health concerns 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 an older loved one, arrange for an appointment as soon as possible with the senior’s doctor. Receiving a correct diagnosis and starting a treatment plan is imperative.

Assistance for depression can include an antidepressant along with professional counseling, or hospitalization if the challenges are severe and warrant more intensive treatment. Dementia care usually involves medications that help with specific symptoms, like 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, Carolina Hearts Home Care, an award-winning provider of home care in Cheraw and nearby areas can help. With our full range of senior home care services, including assistance with meals, errands, housekeeping, transportation, and more, we’re here for whatever specific needs your loved one is facing. Contact us at 1-855-277-2005 to learn more or to request a free in-home consultation.