Dementia Senior Care 101: Understanding Depression and Dementia

Senior woman looking out the window
Because proper treatment is vital, it’s important to determine if an older loved one has depression or dementia.

A visit with Mom recently revealed a number of disturbing signs. Though she has always been up at the crack of dawn, now it’s difficult for her to wake up before lunchtime. Instead of pulling out all the stops for an elaborate home-cooked meal, she prefers to just warm up a can of soup; and can barely finish a small bowl. Additionally, she has lost interest in spending time with her best friends from her knitting club. Is it time for dementia senior care or could this simply be depression?

There are a number of similarities between the two, such as:

  • Eating and sleeping pattern changes
  • A lack of interest in formerly enjoyed activities and hobbies, and spending time with others
  • Problems with memory and the ability to focus

However, there are also several telltale differences to help identify whether depression or dementia could be at play:

  • A slow, progressive decline in mental functioning
  • Noticeable problems with motor and/or language skills
  • Problems with memory, without being aware of these problems
  • Disorientation in knowing the present date, time, and surroundings
  • A more rapid decline in mental functioning
  • Problems with concentrating
  • Somewhat slower, but still normal motor and language abilities
  • Problems with memory issues, but being aware of the challenge
  • Consciousness of current date, time and environment

Sometimes, both health concerns can affect a person simultaneously. Brent Forester, MD, director of the mood disorders division in the geriatric psychiatry research program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, shares, “40 to 50% of people with Alzheimer’s disease get depression, but depression also may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.”

If you suspect either depression or dementia in a senior loved one, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with his/her doctor. Obtaining a correct diagnosis and starting a treatment plan is imperative.

Assistance for depression might include an antidepressant along with therapeutic counseling, or hospitalization if the symptoms are severe and warrant more intense treatment. Dementia care commonly involves medications that help with particular symptoms, like sleep problems, memory loss, or changes in behavior.

If a senior you love has been diagnosed with either depression or dementia, or is struggling with any other challenges of aging, Heaven at Home Senior Care can help. With our full range of senior home care services, including companionship, meal preparation, errands, housekeeping, transportation, and personal care services, we’re here for whatever particular needs your loved one is facing. Email or call us at 972-245-1515 to learn more about our University Park home care services, or to request a free in-home consultation. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.