alzheimer's care

Depression in Seniors Often Misdiagnosed as Dementia

Media Contact: Assisting Angels Home Care
Skip Critell, Client Relations Manager
208-344-7979 Boise
208-466-0733 Nampa

Depression in Seniors Often Misdiagnosed as Dementia

Understand What is Behind the Behavior

(BOISE – October 1, 2008) – It’s a little known fact that depression can sometimes mask as dementia in an older person. An accurate diagnosis is vital for the benefit of the senior, but many times, a depressed older person will be inaccurately diagnosed with dementia. When this occurs and the senior is treated for dementia, the depression continues to worsen, often resulting in a downward spiral.

Dementia is a brain disorder; depression is a mood disorder.

As brains age, most people notice some slower cognitive abilities and occasional problems remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of aging. Dementia is characterized by mental decline and impairment and is a term that describes disorders which affect the following functioning of the brain:

  • Loss of memory
  • Judgment
  • Language
  • Complex motor skills
  • Other intellectual function

People with progressive dementia will most likely lose the ability to perform everyday tasks necessary to live independently. However, not all people who experience memory loss have dementia. Depression may be associated with cognitive impairment and needs to be ruled out before the diagnosis of dementia is made.

According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 2 million out of 35 million Americans age 65 or older suffer from full-blown depression; another 5 million suffer from less severe forms of the illness. Warning signs of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Inappropriate or excessive guilt
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Constant aches and pains
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, suicide plans or a suicide attempt

Dementia and depression share similar symptoms, such as:

  • Memory problems
  • Sluggish speech and movements
  • Low motivation

Whether the cognitive decline is caused by dementia or depression, prompt diagnosis and treatment are important. If it’s depression, memory, concentration and energy will bounce back with treatment. Treatment for dementia will also improve quality of life, and in some types of dementia, symptoms can be reversed, halted or slowed.

Memory screenings can be the first steps in identifying whether a person is suffering from dementia or depression. Memory screenings are particularly useful to anyone who:

  • is concerned about memory loss or experiencing warning signs of dementia
  • has family and friends noticing changes in his/her behavior
  • believes he/she is at risk due to family history and/or a recent illness
  • does not have a concern right now, but wants to establish a baseline score for comparison in the future

A memory screening is not used to diagnose any particular illness and does not replace consultation with a qualified physician or other healthcare professional. However, it is a good first step towards diagnosis and treatment.  This November, Assisting Angels Home Care is an official site participating in National Memory Screening Day and is offering free confidential memory screenings, as well as follow-up resources and educational materials to those concerned about memory loss.

National Memory Screening Day is a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to promote early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and to encourage appropriate intervention. For more information, please contact Assisting Angels Home Care at 208-344-7979 or visit us on the web at



ASSISTING ANGELS HOME CARE is located in Idaho and is a locally owned and operated business serving the entire Treasure Valley. It was founded in 2006 and its mission is to provide the highest quality home care and personal care service available.  We believe the care we provide enables our clients to live with as much independence and dignity as their condition allows, providing peace of mind to our clients and their families.  We will offer these services efficiently, and compassionately. We will provide these services in many settings including homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals or wherever our clients reside.

For further information and to download free resources, visit our website at