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Published on: October 3, 2013
by Faith Trussell, RN, BSN for El Dorado Springs Sun:
Most of us know someone who has dementia – a progressive decline in mental functioning that affects memory, mood, concentration, judgment, reasoning, and thinking. Dementia can be caused by a number of things, most often Alzheimer’s Disease or vascular disease.
However, an older adult may have difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, and making decisions, and may appear confused, masking dementia, when in reality these symptoms may be due to depression. When depression creates cognitive symptoms that look like Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, it’s often referred to as pseudodementia.
Diagnosing pseudodementia is complicated, but a thorough assessment can reveal important clues. For instance, people with depression might complain of memory impairment, but upon careful testing, they often do well on mental status exams and other tests that evaluate cognitive and language functioning. On the other hand, people with true dementia often deny any memory problems but don’t score as well on mental status exams.
It is important that anyone experiencing a marked deterioration in mental abilities be evaluated by a qualified professional. One of several screening instruments is the Geriatric Depression Scale, which detects depression in older adults. Depression and pseudodementia can be reversed, and often respond well to a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Note: This column is provided by Senior Life Solutions, a program dedicated to addressing the emotional health of adults over the age of 65.
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