Ask an Expert: Depression in Elders
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- Why is depression hard to diagnose in the elderly? [1:20]
- How can depression mimic Alzheimer's or dementia? [1:27]
- Why is electroconvulsive therapy often used with the elderly? [1:08]
Learn more about depression in elders:
How can depression mimic Alzheimer's or dementia?
DR. WILLIAM MCDONALD: Well, if you take this couple, I mean, they went to their doctor and they were having difficulty sorting out whether they had Alzheimer's or dementia because she presented with a lot of confusion. And she talks about having trouble organizing herself, getting her meals prepared. Her husband talked about absentminded she was, how she couldn't sort of follow through with something.
And that's a very common presentation in an older person. And sometimes you see something like that and you automatically assume that the patient's demented. So what you need to do is really look at the history of things so that in an older person, you'd look for medical causes. So there's a lot of medical causes of depression. Could have been a-- a lot of medications can cause depression. So in older people in particular, you're gonna look for medical causes. And you're gonna look for things like dementia.
But her presentation was pretty classic. She became very withdrawn. Uh, she stopped eating. She lost 70 pounds. Um, she became agitated at times. She couldn't think clearly. This is sort of a classic presentation for depression. Unlike dementia, it occurred over a period of months, not a period of years. And it-- Although it started slowly and started to build, it wasn't a period of years that this happened over. This happened since last fall, starting slowly with a little bit of forgetfulness and other things. And then she began to become more and more depressed, talked about feeling worthless and other depressive symptoms.