"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Is it dementia or depression?

In older adults who experience cognitive decline, it is typically difficult to inform whether the cause is dementia or depression. Both disorders are common in later years, and every can result in the opposite.

Depression within the elderly may result in a phenomenon referred to as pseudodementia—an apparent mental decline brought on by an absence of energy or effort. People with this problem are sometimes forgetful, slow moving and have low motivation in addition to mental retardation. They may or may not appear depressed. This syndrome responds well to treatment for depression. As mood improves, an individual's energy, ability to pay attention, and mental functioning normally return to previous levels.

Although depression and dementia share certain characteristics, there are some differences that help distinguish one from the opposite:

  • Decline in mental functioning occurs more rapidly with depression than with Alzheimer's or some other sort of dementia.
  • Unlike individuals with Alzheimer's, individuals with depression aren’t normally depressed.
  • People with depression have trouble concentrating, while individuals with Alzheimer's have short-term memory problems.
  • Writing, speaking and motor skills aren’t normally impaired in depression.
  • Depressed people pay more attention to and comment on their memory problems, while individuals with Alzheimer's seem indifferent to such changes.

Since there isn’t a easy test to find out whether someone has depression or dementia, treatment is usually price trying. If depression is at the basis, treatment can produce dramatic improvement.

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