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Why Is Depression Mistaken For Dementia

As A Care Worker How Can You Help

Depression, Delirium and Dementia

There are many conditions and circumstances where you may see signs and symptoms that may be confused with dementia. As a care worker, it is not your responsibility to try to diagnose the condition. However, as you may be the one person who sees the individual on a regular basis, you are well placed to notice any changes. Encouraging an older person to visit their GP on a regular basis can help them to maintain their general health and wellbeing.

Depression: Early Warning Of Dementia

Persistent sadness might be more than just a mood problemit could be a warning sign of memory impairment.

You can’t sleep. You feel irritable and restless. Foods you once loved look unappetizing. These are signs that you may be depressed, but they might also warn that you’re at greater risk for dementia.

A study published in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who became depressed late in life had a 70% increased risk of dementia, and those who’d been depressed since middle age were at 80% greater risk.

Researchers have long known that depression and dementia go hand in hand. Yet they’ve debated over whether the two conditions simply share common causes, or whether depression is an early sign of dementia. Both theories appear to be true. The authors of the study also say depression late in life may indicate that changes have occurred in the brain that can make us more prone to developing dementia.

Can Alzheimers Be Mistaken For Depression

Depression may be different for people with Alzheimers than it is for people without the disease. People with Alzheimers disease may have less severe symptoms of depression than other people. It is possible to experience depression that doesnt last as long or come back as often.

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Memory Changes That Happen With Age

As we get older, our memory naturally starts to get a little worse. But there is a difference between these expected memory problems and dementia symptoms. Forgetting your keys or walking into a room and forgetting what you went in there for are normal memory lapses. But if memory lapses are starting to affect everyday life and are getting worse, they may be a sign of dementia.

Treatment And Management Implications

Why Is Depression Often Mistaken for Dementia?

Currently, there are 35.6 million individuals with dementia worldwide and the associated costs in 2010 were more than 600 billion dollars. Dementia is projected to increase to 65.7 million by 2030 with associated costs expected to rise 85%. Thus, delaying dementia onset could prevent millions of cases and save billions of dollars.

An alternative strategy to improving the course of cognitive decline with depression-interventions is an integrated treatment approach. A recent pilot study in this area has shown promising results, where addition of a cholinesterase inhibitor following antidepressant medication treatment in elderly depressed, cognitively impaired patients showed significant improvement in memory. Another approach may be to combine antidepressants with behavioral interventions that may protect against cognitive decline . A combined treatment approach of antidepressants, cholinesterase inhibitors, vitamins, and diet, lifestyle and exercise modifications has been found to protract cognitive decline over 24 months and improve memory and frontal lobe functions. Although testing the efficacy and effectiveness of such interventions is in its infancy, these integrated strategies hold great promise. Thus, future studies should continue to examine the implication for depression modification in clinical trials, focusing on whether simultaneous or subsequent interventions have additive or multiplicative effects on cognition.

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Why Is Depression Often Mistaken For Dementia

When it comes to taking care of their aging loved ones, families are often careful to take notice of changes to the persons personality, mood, and behaviour. Oftentimes, two conditions come to mind when these distinct changes take place: depression or dementia.

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

  • Dementia: 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 behaviour, thinking, and disposition
  • Delirium: Often caused by being put into a new place, dehydration, or medication

Another important distinction between the two is that depression is considered a mental health issue, while dementia, although it can affect overall mental well-being, is not.

A third condition that is sometimes confused with depression or dementia is delirium. Delirium is a short-term memory loss that results from a person being put into new, unfamiliar surroundings or living conditions, becoming dehydrated, or having a reaction to medication. This condition is often reversible if treated early, whereas most types of depression and dementia can be treated but arent reversible.

What are the symptoms of dementia in seniors?

Here are some of the signs to watch out for:

Differentiating Dementia Delirium And Depression

13 April, 2015By NT Contributor

How can you tell the difference between dementia, delirium and depression in older people, to ensure they receive the right care? Current knowledge on this question is summarised in this article, and is also available as a learning resource in our learning unit on dementia, delirium and depression

Citation: Polson J et al Differentiating dementia, delirium and depression. Nursing Times 111: 16, 19.

Jilly Polson and Suzanne Croy are dementia lead associates, Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling.

  • Scroll down to read the article or

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When Depression Is Really Dementia

Depression and dementia are so closely related that even close family members may have difficulty sorting out the signs of both conditions. When a diagnosis cant be positively made, doctors tend to treat obvious signs of depression while encouraging careful observation to spot signs that may indicate the presence of a dementia-related condition. Possible indications that depression is really dementia may include:

  • Not being able to remember names, facts, or recent conversations even when prompted
  • Being unable to correctly determine time and place
  • Attempting to cover up forgetfulness

If your loved one has a dementia-related condition, it wont be unusual for him or her to realize something is happening during moments of clarity, which may result in depression. Due to the difficulties associated with making an accurate diagnosis, treatments can vary greatly. However, its worth noting that some forms of dementia can be successfully reversed with medications that boost chemical messengers within the brain to enhance memory and judgment.

Can Depression Be Prevented

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Many people wonder if depression can be prevented and how they may be able to lower their risk of depression. Although most cases of depression cannot be prevented, healthy lifestyle changes can have long-term benefits to your mental health.

Here are a few steps you can take:

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Dementia And Its Symptoms

Dementia is not a disease but an umbrella term that describes a progressive decline in cognitive abilities because of the gradual death of brain cells. Although Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of the cases , other diagnoses are also included under this general term.

Different types of dementia include Parkinsons and Huntingtons disease Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia, among others.

Symptoms of dementia vary from person to person. The following are the most common symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Short-term memory problems, even affecting daily activities .
  • Changes in mood and behavior.
  • Impairing of problem-solving skills.

As opposed to the mainstream view, dementia is not age-related. Indeed, as we grow older, our brain activity may not be as high as it used to be in our 20s, 30s, or 40s.

This gradual reduction may cause us to forget things from time to time, like someones birthday, a phone number, or the name of the restaurant we visited last summer. This slight decreased in brain activity does not cause brain damage, as any type of dementia disease does.

Why Is Delirium Often Mistaken For Dementia


There is a gradual progression of cognitive decline in dementia. Delirium can occur suddenly and symptoms can change throughout the day. delirium and underlying dementia can both be separated by inattention. The individual is not able to focus on one idea.


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Depression Common With Age

The link between depression and dementia is even more significant considering that depression becomes more common with age. All of the following may put you at risk for depression as you get older:

  • the death of a spouse, friends, or family members

  • having to move out of your home and into an assisted living facility

  • side effects of medicines you’re taking for health conditions.

You’re also more likely to develop illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer as you get older. These conditions can increase your risk for depression, and vice versa. Depression can make a chronic illness worse, says Dr. Cremens.

Rating Scales For Assessing Depression In Mci/dementia And Vice

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The assessment of depression using structured interviews such as structured clinical interview for DSM-IV is comprehensive but deemed impractical as it is too lengthy and needs training. They may also not capture features unique to LOD such as apathy and motor impairment. The Geriatric Depression Rating Scale uses a yes or no format and is brief however, it is only a patient self-report measure of depression and has limitations when used in patients with MCI or dementia. The scale also requires adaptation and modification when used in languages other than English and in rural illiterate population. The Cornell Scale for depression in dementia utilizes clinicians judgment, patient reports, and informant reports however, it is insensitive to change. The Neuropsychiatric Inventory assesses 12 behavioral and psychological symptoms on the basis of informant reports and is the most extensively used in the literature though not specific for depression. It can be used by non-psychiatrists and has excellent psychometric properties. Other rating scales used are Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, Dementia Mood Assessment Scale, and Centre for Epidemiological Studies for Depression Scale. All the rating scales and structured interview schedules currently available are not without limitations while evaluating for depression in cognitively impaired subjects.

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Limitations/caveats While Reviewing Literature

There are certain limitations that one has to bear in mind while reviewing the literature on the complex relationship between depression and dementia. The studies vary in terms of settingsepidemiological/hospital and specialty clinic/general hospital/primary care settings, use of rating scales differs across studies, diagnostic criteria for cognitive impairment are being refined constantly, and the exclusion of subjects with medical comorbidity. There is also a need to operationalize and validate criteria for a depressive syndrome in dementia. In the background of these limitations, inferences drawn from the review of literature may only be inaccurate or erroneous.

This Common Condition Can Easily Be Mistaken For Dementia Experts Say

Conditions that involve cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’sa progressive disease that is the most common cause of dementiaaren’t just prevalent they’re on the rise. Alzheimer’s Disease International reports that more than 55 million people across the globe were living with dementia in 2020. That number is predicted to double every 20 years, making for 139 million people with dementia in 2050.

Although there is currently no cure for dementia, an early diagnosis can lead to interventions that may help slow its progress. That makes catching the first signs of cognitive decline crucial. However, there’s one common condition that can easily be mistaken for dementia, and may lead to a misdiagnosis. Read on to learn what it isand when doctors say it’s likely to develop into dementia down the line.

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What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline

SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

Also visit the online treatment locator.

Lack Of Vitamin B12 And Lack Of Thiamine

What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia?

Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs and cheese. Thiamine is also a B vitamin and is found in whole-grain foods, some breakfast cereals, beans and peas, nuts and seeds.

Both are important for a healthy nervous system. If someone doesnt get enough of either of these vitamins, they can have symptoms that could be mistaken for dementia. These include confusion, memory loss, irritability and a change in mental state.

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As Therapists What We Can Do To Help

As therapists, we recognize that one of the most powerful things we can offer to any person regardless of their age is the value of caring.

For us, caring means listening attentively, relating with compassion, and not judging anyone for speaking about their symptoms or lifes struggle. We believe that knowledge without caring does very little.

The practice of caring accompanied by clinical knowledge can be an excellent approach to help you live a more pleasant and meaningful life.

Risk Factors For Depression

Some people are more likely to experience depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Older women are at a greater risk because women in general are twice as likely as men to become seriously depressed. Biological factors like hormonal changes may make older women more vulnerable. The stresses of maintaining relationships or caring for an ill loved one and children also typically fall more heavily on women, which could contribute to higher rates of depression. Unmarried and widowed individuals as well as those who lack supportive social network also have elevated rates of depression. Conditions such as heart attack, stroke, hip fracture or macular degeneration and procedures such as bypass surgery are known to be associated with the development of depression.

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Do I Need Health Insurance To Receive This Service

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Depression

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How do you know if you or your loved one may have depression? Does depression look different as you age? Depression in older adults may be difficult to recognize because older people may have different symptoms than younger people. For some older adults with depression, sadness is not their main symptom. They could instead be feeling more of a numbness or a lack of interest in activities. They may not be as willing to talk about their feelings.

The following is a list of common symptoms. Still, because people experience depression differently, there may be symptoms that are not on this list.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness, or having trouble sitting still
  • Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, waking up too early in the morning, or oversleeping
  • Eating more or less than usual, usually with unplanned weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

If you have several of these signs and symptoms and they last for more than two weeks, talk with your doctor. These could be signs of depression or another health condition. Dont ignore the warning signs. If left untreated, serious depression may lead to death by suicide.

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Why Dementia Can Be Difficult To Spot

There are several reasons why dementia can be difficult to spot.

There are many different signs and symptoms of dementia and quite a few of them are non-specific. That means theyre general symptoms such as disturbed sleep, forgetfulness and low mood. Many of these are found in conditions other than dementia. Symptoms also appear slowly and develop gradually, making them difficult to spot.

A doctor wont be able to diagnose dementia based on one specific symptom. They do several tests to find out if someones symptoms are caused by dementia or something else. Tests include:

  • a physical examination
  • questions about general health and symptoms and how these have changed over time
  • blood and urine tests to rule out other conditions and causes
  • cognitive assessments these tests look at mental abilities, including memory and language

As we get older, its common to become a little forgetful especially if were stressed or have been ill. Although dementia is closely linked to age, its different from this normal age-related memory loss.

In older age, were also more likely to develop other conditions that can easily be mistaken for dementia. These include conditions such as depression and delirium. If someone with dementia develops another condition, that can sometimes be missed if the symptoms are similar.


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