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Depression or Dementia

Monday, February 6, 2017

Depression is a difficult diagnosis to make. In the elderly, symptoms of depression may mimic signs of dementia. Some recognizable symptoms of depression in the elderly include loss of interest/ pleasure in most activities, weight loss or gain, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, sloppy hygiene and memory problems. It is easy to see how depression could be mistaken for dementia in the elderly and knowing the differences and risk factors may help confirm a diagnosis as well as save a life.

Suicide is a growing problem in the elderly; this population makes up 13% of the U.S. population but account for over 18% of all suicides. It is estimated that about one third of the seniors who are 65 or older experience depression. These numbers may grow as the baby boomers reach retirement age.

It is important that an elderly person displaying signs of depression have a thorough physical examine by a medical doctor in order to rule out physical problems that may cause depression. Diseases that may cause depression are thyroid disorders, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, strokes and tumors. Of course, all medications should be reviewed for side effects which can cause depression.

With a growing elderly population, families, friends, caregivers and clinicians need to be educated of the growing problems, depression and suicide. Knowledge of risk factors and symptoms can save a life and possibly restore quality of life with the right treatment.

Having a Home Health Aide can be a benefit, having someone who can give companionship as well as observing and reporting symptoms or behaviors could lead to diagnosis and treatment of depression.

Staff Writer, Deirdre