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    Holiday Elder Blues, Depression or Dementia?

    The holiday season is quickly coming upon us. If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one, you may notice a change in your loved one’s mood as the holidays approach. Perhaps you are one of many who visits elderly parents and family during the holidays who live a distance away. When you visit, you may notice that loved ones are not as physically active, or they show symptoms of fatigue or sadness and have no interest in the holiday or in their surroundings.

    How do you know if it is depression or dementia?
    Depression and dementia share similar symptoms. A recent article on Helpguide.org gives some specific differences:

    In depression, there is a rapid mental decline, but the memory of time, date and awareness of the environment remains. Motor skills are slow, but normal in depression. Concern with concentrating and worry about impaired memory may occur.

    On the other hand, dementia symptoms reveal a slow mental decline with confusion and loss of recognizing familiar locations. Writing, speaking and motor skills are impaired, and memory loss is not acknowledged as a being problem by the person suffering dementia.

    Whether it is depression or dementia, prompt treatment is recommended. A physical exam will help determine if there is a medical cause for depression. A geriatric medical practitioner is skilled in diagnosing depression and illnesses in the elderly. If you are a caretaker of an elderly person it may be beneficial for you to seek out a geriatric healthcare specialist. For more information on senior health services go to National Care Planning Council.

    Treating depression in older people.
    Once the cause of depression is identified, a treatment program can be implemented. Treatment may be as simple as relieving loneliness through visitations, outings and involvement in family activities. In more severe cases, antidepressant drugs have been known to improve the quality of life in depressed elderly people. Cognitive therapy sessions with a counselor may also be effective.

    As a caregiver or family member of a depressed older person, make it your responsibility to get involved. The elder person generally denies any problems or may fear being mentally ill. You can make the difference in his/her life and remove the holiday blues from seniors suffering from depression.

    HelpGuide.org offers an informative article, Depression in Older Adults: Recognizing the Signs and Getting the Right Treatment, to help you distinguish between depression, grief, and dementia.

    To find Senior Health Care Services in your area, visit the National Care Planning Council.

    The National Care Planning Council supports the work of geriatric practitioners and their services to the growing senior population. If you are a geriatric practitioner and would like to list your services with the NCPC please call (800) 989-8137.

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    AUTHOR

    Bob Mauterstock

    All stories by: Bob Mauterstock

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