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Is Dementia A Serious Mental Illness

How Common Is Dementia

Is Dementia Mental Illness?

Research shows there are more than 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and the condition affects 1 in 6 people over 80.

The number of people with dementia is increasing because people are living longer. It is estimated that by 2025, the number of people with dementia in the UK will be more than 1 million.

Further information:

Advance Care Planning For Dementia And Serious Mental Illness

Live webinar was held April 13, 2016

Additional resources available at the bottom of the page


This training program was intended for staff and students from many levels, disciplines, and settings , including staff involved in providing long term care , as well as behavioral health staff who work with older adults.

Additionally, staff from Adult Protective Services, home health, adult day healthcare, respite care, area agencies on aging, Emergency Department staff of acute care hospitals, hospital discharge planners, and others serving older adults could benefit from the training.


Staff participating in this webinar will be better trained to recognize and respond to geriatric mental/behavioral health issues before costly inpatient treatment becomes necessary, or anyone has been placed at risk of injury. For those situations necessitating inpatient treatment, trained staff in the facility and community will be better prepared to work together to facilitate psychiatric hospitalization with minimal distress to the older adult and those family members and professions involved in his/her care.

After the webinar, participants will be able to:

1. Recognize what mechanisms can be used to plan ahead for ones care

2. Articulate what is required to make a valid advance directive in Virginia

4. Explain how a person can plan for their care in the event of their objection while incapacitated


Is There A Link Between Mental Illness And Dementia

There is limited and sometimes conflicting research on the relationship between an early adult diagnosis of bipolar disorder and later development of dementia. Theres a slight association between adult psychiatric disorders especially depression and schizophrenia and risk for dementia later in life, according to one research review from Johns Hopkins University. Another study from the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry showed a high correlation between having an early adult bipolar disorder diagnosis and a higher risk of dementia in old age.

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How Is Bipolar Disorder Different In Elderly Adults Than In A Younger Person

Seniors have similar symptoms as younger adults with bipolar disorder, although seniors are likely to have longer hospital stays. Younger adults are more likely to have substance abuse issues in addition to bipolar symptoms.

Elderly adults are also more likely to show a mix of depression and manic symptoms. These are very serious issues in seniors, and it is often overlooked that the rate of suicide is higher in senior years than in any other age group, Shapiro says.

Memory Loss And Dementia

Safe Management of Diabetes with Dementia, Depression and ...
  • events the person may forget part or all of an event
  • words or names the person progressively forgets words and names of people and things
  • stories on TV, in movies or books the person progressively loses the ability to follow stories
  • stored knowledge over time, the person loses known information such as historical or political information
  • everyday skills the person progressively loses the capacity to perform tasks such as dressing and cooking.

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Psychosis In Dementia Or Dementia In Psychosis A Clinical Approach To A Common Puzzle

Overlapping and interacting problems of late-life psychosis, depression and cognitive decline including dementia make geriatric psychiatry a demanding and rewarding area in which to work, Vimal Aga told APAs 2021 Annual Meeting. With a rapidly growing elderly population, it is also one with a pressing need for expertise.

A large national US study in Medicare patients has just shown that 27.9% of 66 year-olds with a diagnosis of schizophrenia also have a diagnosis of dementia.1 This compares with a 1.3% rate of dementia among people of the same age without serious mental illness. By 80 years of age, the prevalence of dementia is 70.2% in people with schizophrenia and 11.3% in others.

At 66 years of age, the prevalence of dementia among people with schizophrenia is the same as that of 88 year olds without serious mental illness.

High rates of dementia among older schizophrenia patients will impact treatment and service use1

Cognitive disorders can mimic psychosis

While some cases are vascular in origin, or Alzheimers disease, many elderly patients with schizophrenia have undifferentiated dementias, Dr Aga said.

The connection is also evident the other way round. Neurocognitive disorders are commonly associated with late-onset psychosis, and International Psychogeriatric Association criteria for their diagnosis in such disorders have recently been updated.2 A third or more of patients with Alzheimers disease have psychotic symptoms at any given time.3

What Is Late Onset Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is defined by mood changes that alternate between depression and mania. Mania is typically characterized by euphoria, hyperactivity, disorganized or impulsive behavior, and less need for sleep. Late onset bipolar disorder is a new diagnosis of a manic or hypomanic episode after age 50 that isnt explained by other potential causes like drugs, brain lesions, or brain injuries.

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Where To Get Help

  • Your local community health centre
  • National Dementia Helpline Alzheimers Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
  • Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
  • My aged care 1800 200 422Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
  • Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
  • Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres Tel 1800 052 222
  • Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers

Mental Illness Alzheimer’s Dementia Older Adults

Is Dementia a Mental Illness

Behavioral health services support persons with serious mental illness, care givers, and people with dementia by developing knowledge and skills in clinicians and others who provide care for them.

Serious mental illnesses, such as Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder or Major Depression often develop earlier in life even so, symptoms and episodes may re-appear or persist. Adults with serious mental illnesses and Intellectual are also at risk of developing dementing illnesses. Serious mental illness may also develop in adults with dementia and can include dementia with hallucinations or delusions, dementia with depressed mood, and dementia with behavioral disturbance.

Dementing illnesses, such as Alzheimers Disease, Lewy Body Dementia or Vascular Dementia most often appear later in life in general, the risks of developing dementia increase with age for everyone. Delirium related to illness becomes more common with age. Substance use, misuse, or dependency and non-intentional prescription drug misuse are also common concerns. Medication interactions, age related changes in physical and mental functioning, brain trauma, and increasing isolation all may mask as psychiatric conditions.

Many times, sorting through psychiatric symptoms, delirium, physical and sensory deficits and medication problems is challenging. Accurate assessments are essential to determine the cause of symptoms and guide treatment. There are specific protocols to rule out other causes of symptoms.

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Mental Health And Dementia

Dementia is, unfortunately, a very common phenomenon among the elderly. As of 2017, there were as many as 44 million individuals worldwide living with dementia. In the United States, as many as one in three seniors has some form of dementia when they pass away.

More than just a mental-health issue, dementia can be extremely taxing on the family and friends of the individuals who are struggling with the condition. It is far more severe than merely telling the same story that everyone has heard before. As the condition progresses, individuals with dementia lose their ability to live independently because they find it too difficult to conduct the activities of daily livingfrom doing household chores down to feeding, dressing, and grooming themselvesand this can often lead to frustration and aggression. In the later stages of dementia, individuals may not recognize family and may come to seem like completely different people. As they exhibit increasingly dysfunctional behavior, it may even make it too difficult for family members to continue to offer care.

New research, however, indicates that the environmental components behind some common diseases that give rise to dementia have a greater impact than previously thought. This is true for the three most common diseases that cause dementia: Alzheimers disease, Lewy body dementia, and vascular dementia.

A New Hope

Why This Is a Big Deal

Is Dementia A Mental Illness

Is dementia a mental illness? When you think about the symptoms of dementia, it would be very easy to classify dementia as a mental illness, but unlike conditions such as schizophrenia and bi-polar, dementia is not an actual disease as suchrather it is a term that refers to a series of non-specific symptoms.

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Mental Illness With Ad

Its common for mental illness, particularly depression, to happen in the early stages of Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia. But accurate diagnosis and treatment has been known to improve cognitive function, according to Todays Geriatric Medicine. Its difficult enough living with AD, but the symptoms are compounded when it occurs in conjunction with other mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.

In fact, the CDC says that serious symptoms of depression occur in up to 50 percent of older adults with Alzheimers, and major depression occurs in about 25 percent of cases. Depression is often intermingled with the belief that this is simply an older adults reaction and awareness of progressive decline. But there is more to it than that, with some research suggesting there is a biological connection between AD and depression.

Anxiety disorders are also common, happening in about 30 percent of adults who have AD. Anxiety can include anything from generalized nervousness and fear of leaving home to agitation regarding changes of routine and feelings of suspicion or paranoia. Anxiety can also be psychologically and physically linked to AD.

What Is The Main Cause Of Dementia

(PDF) Serious Mental Illness and Dementia in Assisted Living

Alzheimers disease is the biggest cause of cases of dementia, along with vascular dementia, but there are also a large number of dementia cases caused by Dementia with Lewy bodies. In younger patients, inherited Alzheimers disease accounts for a large number of cases, but Huntington and Frontotemporal lobar degeneration is another cause.

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Managing Depression In Dementia

  • Try to keep a daily routine for the person with dementia.
  • Incorporate daily exercise, because this has been proven to have a positive impact on symptoms of depression.
  • Limit the amount of noise and activity in the environment if this causes a problem. This will help avoid overstimulation.
  • Large group situations can make some people feel worse, while others may benefit from the stimulation of a busy, active gathering. It is important to know what the person has enjoyed in the past, because it is likely that similar activities will still appeal.
  • Have a realistic expectation of what the person can do. Expecting too much can make both the person with dementia and the carer feel frustrated and upset.
  • Be aware of when the person is usually least tired and do any important tasks at that time.
  • Be positive. Frequent praise will help both the person with dementia and the carer feel better.
  • Include the person in conversation to the extent that they feel comfortable.

Alzheimers Is A Brain Disease

People diagnosed with Alzheimers disease may display similar traits to those with mental illness. However, Alzheimers disease is more accurately defined as a brain disease, specifically, a progressive neurodegenerative condition. The American Psychiatric Association describes the brain disorder as a group of symptoms that lead to a decline in mental function severe enough to disrupt daily life.

The progression of the various stages of Alzheimers leads to memory loss, which affects ones ability to reason, learn, and make sound decisions. A person with Alzheimers can lose the ability to communicate effectively, and eventually, accomplishing simple daily activities becomes an overwhelming challenge.

Alzheimers disease is treatable, but not curable. Treating Alzheimers disease helps to slow its devastating progression and assists in providing quality of life through the multiple stages of the disease.

Dementia affects both mental and physical health, but it is not strictly defined as mental illness. Unlike mental illness, dementia is a disease that primarily affects seniors. Mental illness is nondiscriminatory and can be prevalent at any age. Yet while it differs from dementia, one in three seniors suffers from mental illness.

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Mental Illness Diagnosis Is Not Easy

First, its important to point out that diagnosing a mental illness isnt easy. Even in otherwise physically healthy individuals, mental illness can take a variety of forms and present in very different ways. Add in concomitant health problems that are typical in seniors, and it can become quite a puzzle. Oftentimes, however, the behaviors that can characterize a mental illness fall into one of a few core groups. These can include:

  • Being withdrawn, depressed, uninterested in hobbies, socialization, or activities
  • Acting aggressive, confused, showing poor judgment or uncharacteristically inappropriate behavior
  • Memory loss, flashbacks, physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, and so on

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms that characterize mental illness can also be signs and symptoms of dementia, Alzheimers, or other cognitive impairment. This is especially true in the early stages of those diseases. This can make it extremely difficult for a differential diagnosis to occur based on symptoms alone. And misdiagnosis of a mental health issue as dementia or similar can mean the underlying mental health problem doesnt get addressed. That can lead to tragic circumstances, including suicide in some cases. In fact, seniors have one of the highest suicide rates compared to all other age groups.

Proper Diagnosis Is Key

Dementia, ‘sectioning’ and The Mental Health Act 1983 – Alzheimer’s Society podcast October 2015

The best way to ensure a proper diagnosis of dementia or a mental illness is to take into consideration all of the life changes and health effects of aging on a senior. Cognitive decline is a real possibility, but so is mental illness. The loss of loved ones, less time with friends and family, natural changes to the brain as we age, retirement, a sense of lack of purpose, and so on can all contribute to the mental state of a senior. Knowing how to deal with those changes, and separate normal feelings, moods, and so on from genuine mental illness or dementia can be a challenge. Experts who are trained in these fields are known as geropsychologists, and they are often the best choice for proper diagnosis.

Theres a natural stigma in seniors about mental health and seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. This stems from the general social stigma around mental illness that was prevalent during the majority of seniors lives. However, by seeing a specialist in geropsychology, and working with friends and family to provide a history and other health information, seniors are more likely to get an accurate diagnosis. The role of psychology and therapy doesnt need to be something that is kept secret and not talked about. Its quite beneficial, and can solve these kinds of mental health problem. After all, its a lot easier to deal with a mental illness and get better than a degenerative condition like dementia.

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Risk Factors For Dementia Diseases Like Alzheimers Disease

According to the Alzheimer Society of BC some people have increased risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. There are some risk factors that one cannot control like age, gender and genetics and there are risk factors one does have some control over. In terms of age, In Canada, 1 in 20 people over the age of 65 is affected by Alzheimers Disease. For people over 85 years, the likelyhood of having dementia increases to approximately 1 in 4 people. . Women are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimers disease and if it runs in your family you are even more at risk.

There are risk factors that can be controlled and they include having diabetes, heart problems, and brain injuries. Keeping your body as healthy as possible will reduce the risk of Alzheimers disease. If you or your loved one is experiencing some of the above symptoms of either depression or Alzheimers disease, please see your doctor.

Below are some resources for more information.

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Seniors And Depression: The Difference Between Depression And Dementia

Depression is a mood disorder dementias like Alzheimers disease, can have similar symptoms but they are different illnesses and have different treatment plans.

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Its important to know what to look for to help determine what illness you might be dealing with. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis however so if you experience any of the symptoms of either illness see your doctor right away.

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How Can I Tell If My Aging Loved One Has Bipolar Disorder Or Dementia

Mental illness can be very difficult to diagnose in seniors as confusion, erratic behavior, and memory loss are symptoms of both dementia and mental illness. This makes it difficult to differentiate between the two conditions and why its recommended to consult with a mental health professional who specializes in older adults.

Supporting Someone With Dementia Who Has Mental Health Problems

Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other ...

Its common for people with dementia to experience depression, anxiety or apathy . Alzheimers UK has information about how these problems might affect someone with dementia, and ways to support them and get them the right support and treatment.

Improving the mental health of someone with dementia can improve their overall quality of life, for example by helping them engage with friends and relatives, improving their appetite and sleep quality, and boosting their motivation.

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