Depression and Alzheimer are caused by different malfunctions in the brain. Depression can have some of the same symptoms as Alzheimer. Someone with Alzheimer can have depression as well. Depression does not cause Alzheimer. I did see in my Mom, then when she realized she was showing signs of Alzheimer, that she became depressed. So Alzheimer can cause depression but not the other way around. Hope that helps....
I agree with Deb, but I also just scanned the internet for dementia and depression and found some interesting info. You might try that to find some answers to this question. When my DH was diagnosed I asked the neurologist for an anti-depressant to go along with his other meds to help him in the future. Unfortunately they go hand in hand...
Dementia is a broad catagory that includes many types of cognitive decline. Alzheimer is just one of the many types of dementia. Vascular dementia and picks are two other types of dementia.
Depression does not cause dementia. People who are depressed can have some of the same symptoms as those with dementia. Because of their withdrawal they can have behavior changes, difficulty focusing, memory problem etc but the root case is the depression. The correct medication for depression will improve these symptoms. In dementia the symptoms are not improved by depression medication.
Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain where as dementia is caused by an inability of the synaps of the nerves to function correctly.
As I said before people who have dementia (alzheimer being one type of dementia) may (and often do) develop depression but depression does not cause dementia.
It might help to do a web search on depression, dementia, and alzheimer as Janie suggested.
It would be very helpful for you to have a talk with your family member's doctor. Could you go with him/her to a regular checkup? If it is your parent, do you have medical POA so you can be included in decision making?
There are also many books on Alzheimer's Disease, as well as Internet information.
My mother had dementia and died of it last winter. She was never depressed, but for a short time (months) was upset because she didn't know what was happening to her. That time went by, and then she was content again, not remembering what she had lost.
I often feel that when pateints who are still mentally sharp find out that they are diagnosed with Alzheimers, they become depressed. I know that my mother did. It is like a kiss of death. You feel that perhaps it is just minor strokes or something that you can control, then you get this death sentance, and it often does cause depression. I was surprised that it didn't cause depression in my daddy sooner than it did though. Mom was his whole life and she took care of almost everything so it was a major blow to him.
Ibake is right - in fact the two terms are so close that they are often used interchangeably. My Mom had 'old age dementia ' or 'senile dementia' but to all intents and purposes she was treated exactly like an Alzheimer patient.
Many people ask, at the beginning of their caregiving , ''is this Alzheimer's or only dementia?" I did also. It is a common error, caused by both terms being used for the same symptoms, and because of the fear and anxiety caused by the word ''Alzheimer,'' it is sometimes avoided by people - also doctors- saying "dementia'' instead.
Keep researching and learning, It is good to know what to expect.
People are using ALZ and dementia interchangeably and that is WRONG. ALZ is the most common FORM of dementia. There are many other types. Unfortunately.
1. AlZ has a specific genetic component and is caused by the failure of the brain to use certain chemicals for memory and other necessary functions. Acetycholine is one of the chemicals that the ALZ brain does not seem to have enough of. That is why some meds can help ALZ patients. You can find this out for yourself on the web.
2. Vascular Dementia is the second leading cause of dementia in the elderly. It is caused by multi-infarcts or strokes--- sometimes so small as to go unnoticeable. but it causes many things that ALZ causes but it is NOT ALZ. Also there are no meds for this condition like there are for ALZ.
That is why you must know which type of dementia your family member has. An early diagnosis of ALZ can be slowed by the ALZ meds.
3. An MRI can see the damage due to strokes. This is vascular dementia.
I am pretty sure you cannot see the plaques and squiggles caused by ALZ but can be seen during an autopsy.
My mother's MRI showed the scar tissue due to strokes. The doc said he didn't think it was ALZ. Therefore, we were told it was either Vasc Dementia or Atypical Progressive Dementia. Whatever.
She has many symptoms that an ALZ patient has without the physical changes that occur with ALZ.
5. Old age senility is another category that seems to be fairly innocuous. It is simply put--the natural aging of the brain and we all know people in their 80s and 90s who can still live alone and function but family members are constantly checking in. This used to be called "hardening of the arteries". the blood simply wasn't getting to all the parts of the brain anymore.
these old people may even still be driving, (they shouldn't) and are not in the true dementia group and yet they are no longer able to function as they did at 50-60-70...
Most of us, if we live long enough, will be in this latter group #5...
You are right Golfhat. Even doctor's interchange the terms. My Dad was diagnosed with ALZ when in fact he has Vascular Dementia. He was put on Aricept and Namenda though neither are for his type of dementia. All because he was misdiagnosed. Mom has been diagnosed correctly with dementia consistent with ALZ. The research facility she was diagnosed at does not just call it ALZ because it cannot be definitely diagnosed unless there is an autopsy.
I have noticed a different progression in Mom's ALZ. Dad's progression has been sporatic by steps rather than the steady progression that Mom has experienced. Dad still maintains some of his logical and Mom has lost hers. Dad processes auditory much better than Mom. Having one of each I do see differences. I just wish medical professionals were as current on the disease as some caregivers are.
Old age Dementia (used to be called senility) can also be totally devastating. That's what my Mom had, and she became just as strange and irrational as an Alzheimer victim. Everything from not bathing to wandering off, to night activity (sundowning) to burning pots, and not knowing who people are. I dont think it is inevitable. You see people on TV who are 105 and rational, clear thinking. They may need help getting out of a chair, but do not have to be told to take a bath ...
Comparing Mom to other patients at the NH where she wound up after the hip fracture, she was more docile than some, more cheerful and optimistic than most, but just as confused, incapable of rational thought, and blank eyed as all the rest.
I think any form of dementia is terrible, and I am glad that not all of us who live long will get it ...
Last edited by Martha H; 07-11-2008 at 03:50 AM.
After reading your post Martha a question that I have ask myself several times came to mind. The inability to supress impulses and to control behavior can frequently be effected by dementia. I have often wondered how much of what you see in dementia patients is a result of this center being effected and a basic personality of the person involved. That personality which was always there but was intentionally repressed.
Mom has turned into her mother and I see all the old resentments and anger that she never expressed before coming forward where as my Dad is accepting, kind, and cooperative unless provoked. He does display the paranoia of the soldier side of him and the dominance of the men of his age. These reactions are all scewed by their inability to process their current reality but the idea does interest me. Just an observation I have made over the years.
Honestly Ibake.... I don't care how down I get I can depend on you for a smile that spread from ear to ear. You have the most amazing sense of humor!!! I can tell you that when I looke in the mirror I want to say......
Mirror Mirror on the wall, I am my FATHER after all!!!