Is It Depression or Dementia?

Visiting Mom recently revealed some concerning signs. She’s always been an early riser, but now she stays in bed until nearly noon. Rather than preparing her signature home-cooked meals, she resorts to simply heating up a can of soup; and only eats half of a serving. And perhaps most significantly, she’s lost interest in her favorite pastimes and friends. Could she be suffering from dementia, or could it be something else?

The reality is, another condition often mimics dementia: depression. Both depression or dementia can include the following:

  • Changes in sleeping and eating
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Memory and attention difficulties

Yet there are also some key differences to help determine whether depression or dementia might be at play:


  • A decline in mental functioning that is gradual
  • Difficulties with short-term memory
  • Noticeable impairment in language and/or motor skills
  • Memory problems (without being aware of those problems)
  • Confusion about the correct date, time, and environment


  • A decline in mental functioning that is more rapid
  • Concentration problems
  • Nearly normal (yet potentially slowed) motor and language abilities
  • Some memory issues, while being aware of these problems
  • Awareness of the correct date, time and environment

There are also occasions when both conditions can impact a person simultaneously. Brent Forester, MD, director of the mood disorders division in the geriatric psychiatry research program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, explains, “40 to 50% of people with Alzheimer’s disease get depression, but depression also may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.”

If you believe that either depression or dementia could be affecting a senior loved one, contact his or her primary care physician immediately. Receiving a correct diagnosis and starting an appropriate treatment plan is crucial.

Help for depression can include an antidepressant and/or therapeutic counseling, or if symptoms are severe, even hospitalization for more extensive treatment. Treatment for dementia typically includes medications to ease particular symptoms, such as sleeping problems, memory loss, or behavioral changes.

If a senior you love has been diagnosed with either depression or dementia, or is challenged by any other conditions of aging, Senior HomeCare of Tucson is here to help with highly customized, professional services for at-home care in Saddlebrooke and the nearby areas to make life safer and more enjoyable for older adults. Contact us at 520-355-4787 to request a complimentary consultation, right in the comfort of home, to learn more about how our professional Saddlebrooke memory care in the surrounding areas can help.

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