Differences and Similarities Between Depression and Dementia

depression and dementia

How can you tell if a loved one has depression or dementia?

A visit with mom recently uncovered several unsettling signs. Even though she’s always been awake and out of bed by 8 a.m., now it’s difficult to wake her before lunchtime. Rather than preparing an elaborate home-cooked meal, she prefers to merely warm up a can of soup; and can barely finish a small bowlful. Not only that, but she has lost interest in spending time with her best friends from book club. Could she be suffering from depression and dementia?

There are a number of similarities between the two, including:

  • Sleeping and eating pattern changes
  • Reduced interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies, and spending time with others
  • A decrease in memory and the ability to focus

However, there are also a number of distinguishing differences to help discern whether depression or dementia could be at play:


  • A slow, progressive decline in mental functioning
  • Noticeable impairment with motor and/or language skills
  • Problems with memory, without being aware of these problems
  • Confusion in knowing the correct date, time, and surroundings


  • A faster decline in mental functioning
  • Problems with concentration
  • Somewhat slower, but still normal motor and language functioning
  • Problems with memory issues, but being aware of the challenges
  • Aware of present date, time and environment

Sometimes, both conditions can affect a person simultaneously. 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 senior you love, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with the person’s doctor. Receiving a correct diagnosis and beginning a treatment plan is imperative.

Help for depression might include an antidepressant as well as professional counseling, or hospitalization if the challenges are severe and require more in-depth treatment. Dementia care commonly involves medications that help with specific symptoms, like sleep problems, memory loss, or changes in behavior.

If someone you love has been diagnosed with depression and/or dementia, or is struggling with any other challenges of aging, the top provider of home health in Albuquerque, Harmony Home Health & Hospice, can help. With our full range of Albuquerque home health care services, including skilled care, balance improvement, cardio management, diabetes management, home monitoring, and more, we’re here for whatever individual needs your loved one is facing. Call us at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE  for more information or to schedule a free in-home consultation. Visit our Service Area page for a full list of the communities we serve.