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Is it Depression or Dementia?

Medical conditions often share the same symptoms while still having very distinct differences. This is often the case with depression and dementia, which often have overlapping signs that can cause concern for families.

As a Senior Living Advisor and dementia specialist (Mike McClernon, 516-254-9481), I thought this article would help families understand the similarities and differences between the two conditions. However, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking your elderly relative to a doctor for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

There are many symptoms common to both illnesses, which is why differentiating between the two can be difficult. Generally, the distinction can be made by understanding what is generally behind both conditions:

  • Dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease): A chronic, progressive disease caused by brain disease or injury that presents itself through impaired memory, personality change, and decreased reasoning
  • Depression: A mental health disorder that affects behavior, thinking, and disposition

Another important distinction between the two conditions is that depression is considered a mental health issue. Dementia, on the other hand, affects mental well-being but is not thought of as a mental illness.

A third condition that is sometimes confused with depression or dementia is delirium. Delirium is a short-term memory loss resulting from dehydration, medication reaction, or being put into new, unfamiliar surroundings or living conditions. It’s important to note that this condition is often reversible when treated early, whereas many types of depression and dementia can be treated but are not reversible.

What are the symptoms of dementia in seniors?

Dementia is the umbrella term for many related cognitive conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, that deal with reduced brain function. Although the vast majority of dementia conditions can’t be cured, progression can be slowed down with the proper treatment by doctors or healthcare professionals in a Memory Care community.

Here are some of the signs of dementia to watch for:

  • Impaired memory that goes beyond occasional forgetfulness
  • Trouble communicating, including forgetting words, mixing up word usage, or trailing off without completing a sentence
  • Failing to maintain one’s hygiene or nutrition
  • Increased confusion which may include being disoriented, unsure of the time of day, having trouble recognizing family members or close friends, or being unable to find items
  • Forgetting to take medication
  • Personality changes, severe mood swings, or personality traits that are contrary to their normal behavior

Identifying depression in seniors

Depression and other forms of mental illness are not part of the typical aging process. Although it’s perfectly normal to seem down or “depressed” at times, an older person who’s constantly in a state of sadness or demonstrates the following symptoms for longer than two weeks should be seen by a medical professional:

  • Increased anxiety over family, friends, money, or other issues
  • Expressions that life is pointless and not worth living
  • Loss of interest in activities they usually love, such as hobbies, watching sports, walking, or playing a musical instrument
  • A lack of energy and a desire to sit or lie in bed for lengthy periods
  • Sudden changes in sleeping patterns such as bouts of insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Excessive crying, unresolved regret, or dwelling on unhappy memories that may have happened decades before
  • A lack of focus or seeming confused, indecisive, or indifferent
  • No concern for living conditions, hygiene, or proper nutrition

When depression may actually be dementia

Depression and dementia share many similar symptoms. The most significant distinction between the two is severe memory loss. For example, people with depression can usually recall names, facts, or recent conversations and correctly determine time and place. Dementia patients typically struggle with these.

It’s not uncommon for someone with dementia to realize what is happening to them during moments of clarity, which can lead to depression. This is why the cognitive, mental, and emotional challenges of aging adults need to be handled with the patience, empathy, and professional care offered in Memory Care communities.

How Memory Care helps with dementia and depression

Memory Care communities are created for mental stimulation, progressive activities, and personal health and safety for people with cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The specially-trained staff in Memory Care create a comfortable environment for residents so they can have the best day possible. In many cases, the social activities and therapies available help slow down the progression of the disease. The staff will also monitor for changes to your loved one’s well-being, including signs of depression, and keep you apprised of the situation so you can collaborate on a treatment plan.

Memory Care communities help older people thrive in a place made just for them, bringing families peace of mind that their loved one is getting the best care possible.

No-cost help finding Assisted Living/Memory Care on Long Island

Memory Care communities are designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to get the support they need to feel happy, fulfilled, and safe. When looking for the right community for your loved one on Long Island, contact Mike McClernon of Assisted Living Locators.

Mike has collaborated with hundreds of families just like yours to help find the most appropriate Assisted Living or Memory Care Community for their older relatives. He will ensure you have all the information you need to decide where your loved ones will thrive and be well-cared for during their vintage years.

Contact Mike today at 516-254-9481 or to explore Senior Living Community options for the older person in your life. His phone is always on!