Your senior loved one is pulling away from social situations and keeps forgetting things. You’re worried that dementia may be developing. Or could it be depression? The two have many similarities, but by understanding and recognizing the differences, you can help your loved one get the help they need.

Symptoms of Dementia & Depression Overlap

The symptoms of depression and dementia can be very similar or even overlap. But despite their similarities, they are two distinct illnesses that must be treated accordingly.

Symptoms of Dementia

The symptoms of dementia start off small before gradually getting worse over time:

  • Memory problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty finding the right words to communicate
  • Impaired judgment

Symptoms of Depression

Similarly, symptoms of depression include:

  • Memory problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Slowed movement and speech
  • Sadness
  • Fatigue

In addition, those with depression tend to have a higher risk of developing dementia. With such similar symptoms, how can you know from which your loved one is suffering so you can help them? Fortunately, there are a few ways to tell.

Discerning the Differences

Always have a doctor make an official diagnosis and never diagnose your loved one yourself. A misdiagnosis can be dangerous, as your senior loved one may be treated for the wrong illness. For example, if they have depression and are mistakenly diagnosed with dementia, then their depression will remain untreated, which can be devastating.

Here are the differences:

  • Depression develops faster than dementia (dementia takes weeks or months to develop).
  • Despite memory lapses, those with depression will be able to remember something when asked.
  • Impaired judgment in those with depression is usually caused by the lack of concentration.

To learn more about dementia and how to best care for loved ones struggling with this disease, see the Alzheimer’s & Dementia section on our blog.