Depression looks like dementia symptoms?

If you think depression may be affecting someone living with dementia, discuss your concerns with their doctor or health professional.

If depression is diagnosed, a doctor may prescribe antidepressant medication. Prescribed antidepressant medication can help improve depressed feelings, appetite and sleep. A doctor may also make a referral to a psychologist or counsellor.

As well as having negative feelings, if a person with dementia has depression, it can make problems with their thinking and memory worse. Depression may also make any changes in their behaviour worse. They may be agitated and aggressive. They may also have problems sleeping or refuse to eat. For people in the later stages of dementia, symptoms of depression often include tearfulness and weight loss.

Depression or Dementia ?

Depression and dementia

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It is common for people with dementia to have anxiety. It can make symptoms of dementia worse – particularly symptoms that affect a person’s attention, planning, organising and decision-making.

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Where to get help

At least one in five people in the UK will have depression at some time in their lives. However, it is more common in people with dementia, particularly if they have vascular dementia or Parkinson’s disease dementia. Depression is often diagnosed when a person is in the early stages of dementia. However it can develop at any stage. Depression can also come and go.

However, there’s no reason why a person with dementia can’t benefit from talking about their thoughts and feelings with a professional counsellor or therapist, at least during the earlier stages of the condition.

Antidepressant drugs are widely used to treat depression. However they don’t seem to be as effective in people with dementia. As a result, treating depression in a person with dementia can be more about improving their quality of life through:

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Older people who have depression may have slightly different symptoms than younger people. They are likely to feel more agitated and to have more health anxiety (worries about their own health). They are also more likely to have more physical symptoms, such as aches and pains.

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Tips to provide ongoing support

Most people feel low or sad from time to time. This is not the same as being depressed. Depression is a condition that can last for several weeks or months. When a person has depression a number of negative feelings can dominate their life, including sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy.

When it comes to taking care of their aging loved ones, families are often careful to take notice of changes to the person’s 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:

Depression and dementia

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If a person has had depression in the past, they are more likely to have it again if they develop dementia.

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Diagnosing depression

Dementia is the umbrella term for many different conditions that deal with reduced brain function. The most common of these conditions is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 – 80% of dementia diagnoses.

Depression is very common in people living with dementia. An estimated 20 to 30 per cent of people living with dementia experience depressive symptoms. People in long-term residential care are particularly at risk.

Why Is Depression Often Mistaken for Dementia

Depression vs Dementia

A depressive disorder usually includes a depressed mood or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, together with other symptoms. These may include a lack of energy, changes in appetite, sleeping too much or too little and feelings of guilt or worthlessness.

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About depression

It can be hard to know if someone living with dementia is depressed.

People with depression can have disturbed sleep, such as waking in the very early morning. They may also struggle to think clearly or concentrate, or they may become more forgetful.

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