Depression and Dementia: Recognize the Signs

dementia and depression Senior Living Tips & Advice

Depression and Dementia: Recognize the Signs

For a couple of years now, you’ve been visiting a loved one with dementia in the assisted living home. Most of the time you can get them to chat with you and despite everything, your time together is rather pleasant.

Lately, things have changed. They no longer seem to find as much joy in your talks. The reason might be because they’re depressed.

Dementia and depression oftentimes go hand and hand. The problem is diagnosing it. There are many similarities between the two conditions.

Part of getting your loved one the proper treatment is recognizing the signs of depression. Keep reading to learn more.

Difficulties with Diagnosis

Recognizing the signs of depression in your loved one with dementia can be difficult because a lot of the symptoms are the same. Your loved one may have issues articulating how they’re feeling.

That means it will be up to you to recognize any major changes in their behavior or mood. We will say that depression looks a bit different in patients with Alzheimer’s than it does for other people.

Most of the time it’s not as severe and the symptoms tend to come and go. They’re also less likely to speak about suicide or make the attempt.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Again, depression and dementia have a lot of the same symptoms so recognizing the signs isn’t easy. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. If they begin to show any of the following signs you should talk to a professional about getting an official diagnosis.

Loss of Interest

If your loved one stops showing an interest in participating in activities at the assisted living home this may be a sign that they are depressed. This is also a common side effect of dementia so you have to dig a little deeper to find out if the problem is depression.

Try to get your loved one to take part in an activity that they’ve always enjoyed. For example, if your dad likes football, flip the channel to the game when you visit. If he doesn’t seem to care much about it, he might be depressed.


While tearfulness is a common occurrence with dementia patients, prolonged crying isn’t. If they cry for a good while during your visits with them, there’s a good chance that they are experiencing depression.

Changes in Sleeping Habits

You feel like every time you visit your loved one in the assisted living home they’re sleeping. You’ve heard from the staff that they don’t sleep much at night. Sometimes they sleep for a little while but wake up several times during the night.

This major fluctuation in their sleeping habits is a common sign that they are experiencing some level of depression.


Many dementia patients who experience depression showcase sudden agitation toward their surroundings and other people. It doesn’t take much to set them off and put them in a horrible mood.

Physical Ailments

Physical ailments can be a tricky sign to notice. If they’re complaining about being in pain a lot it could be due to some kind of medical condition. It could also be a sign of depression.

Take your loved one to the doctor to get looked over. If the doctor tells you that there’s nothing wrong with them, there’s a good chance that depression is the cause.


Many people who have depression find it difficult to pull themselves out of bed. They just don’t have the energy to get up and go. If your loved one spends the vast majority of their time in bed, they may be depressed.

Getting an Official Diagnosis

For your loved one to be diagnosed with depression, they’ll need to be inspected by a medical professional. They’ll take a look at your loved one’s family history as well as interview people who know them and do a thorough mental and physical examination.

In order for them to be diagnosed with depression, they have to have been showing symptoms for two weeks or longer.

Treatment Methods

As far as treatment goes, there are several options available for your loved one. If they are in the early stages of dementia and are fully aware that they have depression, support groups are a great asset. Being able to sit in a room and talk to other people who are experiencing the same problems they are facing will make them feel less alone.

If they aren’t a fan of large groups, one on one counseling sessions can be just as helpful. Exercising releases feel-good endorphins that are known to reduce depression. So, if your loved one is able, they may benefit from developing a morning exercise routine.

Often times, an individual needs to take medication along with getting exercise and attending counseling sessions in order to recover. The doctor is likely to prescribe Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors rather than going with traditional antidepressant medications because they shouldn’t interfere with the other medications your loved one is currently taking.

Dementia and Depression Sometimes Go Hand and Hand

Dementia and depression seem to go hand and hand. Since the two share a lot of the same symptoms, getting a diagnosis can prove to be difficult. It’s up to you to notice the sudden mood and behavioral changes and get your loved one the help that they need to pull through.

One of the major causes of depression in senior dementia patients is loneliness. Being surrounded by others in an assisted living home can help. Go here to schedule a tour of our facility and find out if we’re the right fit for your loved one.