Depression and dementia are common in older adults. Depression is highly prevalent in the older population than in the general adult population. A WHO study says that 21.9% of the elderly in India suffer from depression. Meanwhile, there are 4.4 million older adults in India having some form of dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a process of cognitive decline. It is usually characterized by short-term and long-term memory loss. In extreme cases, there might be a complete character change in an individual with dementia. It is caused by different degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is irreversible in most cases. However, when it is caused by affective disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, it is reversible.
Cognitive decline due to dementia is virtually indistinguishable from depression. In the early stages, the symptoms of dementia are similar to depression. The common symptoms of both depression and dementia in the elderly are:
- Overpowering negative feelings (helplessness, worthlessness)
- Have negative opinions on almost everything
- Isolation and actively avoiding socialization
- Disinterest and inability to concentrate
- Unexplained urge to cry
- Sleeping unnaturally
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Fatigue and no motivation
- Little to no sense of direction
Dementia increases with age. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of all dementias.
Depression is also quite common in older adults, with bipolar disorders and mood disorders being the most common.
Relationship between Depression and Dementia
Dementia and depression are intricately linked to each other. Some studies say that depression leads to dementia while others suggest that dementia leads to depression.
It is difficult to diagnose depression in older adults with dementia because of overlapping symptoms between both of these. However, there are certain differences between depression and dementia that a vigilant caregiver can use to take proper action.
|Response to cognitive decline||Denial or lack of concern||Overly anxious and amplification|
|Mood||Normal nearly all the time||Severe mood swings with sadness being predominant|
|Interest||Gradual loss and apathy||Abrupt loss of interest and pleasure|
|Eating and weight||Gradual loss of weight and appetite||Disrupted eating habits leading to loss or gain in weight|
|Sleep||Gradual disruption of sleep cycle||Disrupted sleep cycle that changes time to time|
|Energy||Normal||Decrease in energy and increase in fatigue|
|Suicidal thoughts||Uncommon||Very common|
Also Read: 6 Ways to Deal with Depression
Depression in dementia can be debilitating, especially when dementia is in its advanced stage. The psychiatrist will examine the conditions and treat according to the intensity of dementia.
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