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Depression or Dementia: Know the Differences

Learn more about detecting senior depression or dementia from CareFor, a top Georgetown home care agency serving Austin and the surrounding area.

Spending time with Mom recently revealed several unsettling signs. Though she has always been an early riser, now it’s hard for her to wake up before lunchtime. Instead of going to great lengths to prepare an elaborate home-cooked meal, she would rather just heat up a can of soup and can barely finish a small bowlful. Furthermore, she has lost interest in spending time with her beloved friends from church. Could she be suffering from depression or dementia?

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

  • Sleeping and eating pattern changes
  • A reduced interest in formerly enjoyed activities and hobbies and spending time with family and friends
  • Reduced memory and the ability to focus

There are, however, a variety of distinguishing differences to help identify whether depression or dementia could be at play:


    • A gradual decline in mental functioning
    • Noticeable difficulties with motor and/or language skills
    • Struggles with memory, although the person is unaware of these problems
    • Confusion in knowing the present date, time, and surroundings


    • A faster decline in mental functioning
    • Problems with concentration
    • Slightly slower, but still normal motor and language abilities
    • Struggling with memory issues but being aware of the challenge
    • Consciousness of correct date, time, and environment

At times, both health concerns can impact a person concurrently. 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 loved one, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with the senior’s doctor. Obtaining a correct diagnosis and beginning a treatment plan is critical.

Help for depression might include an antidepressant together with professional counseling, or hospitalization if the difficulties are severe and warrant more intensive treatment. Dementia care usually involves medications that help with particular symptoms, including sleep problems, memory loss, or changes in behavior.

If someone you love has been diagnosed with either depression or dementia, or struggles with any other challenges of aging, CareFor, a top Georgetown home care agency, serving Austin and the surrounding area, can help. With our full range of senior home care services, including care management, preparing meals, errand-running, housekeeping, transportation, and personal hygiene care, we’re here for whatever particular needs your loved one has. Reach out to us online or at (512) 338-4533 for more information or to arrange for a free in-home consultation.

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