Dementia is NOT a mental health issue:
The two are often confused, even by professionals in this field. This confusion reinforces stigmas associated with both dementia and mental health. Dementia (for example, Alzheimer’s Disease or vascular) is a medical condition, a degenerative brain disease affecting areas such as judgment, reasoning, visual perception, and memory. Mental health, for example, depression, is a mood state and also an illness. Most dementias are not reversible but depression certainly is!
I have seen many people who over the years did experience mental health issues but were never diagnosed or treated. There remains a lot of stigma around discussing mental health and this can be more so with our “Greatest Generation” members who simply did not discuss mental health. Depression and dementia can be experienced simultaneously. Once dementia is the primary diagnosis, it should be treated as such and mental health takes a “back seat”.
Medications are also an issue. Someone can be misdiagnosed with a mental health condition and be put on medications they do not need. This is further complicated when a person has multiple co-morbid medical conditions. Interactions between medications need to be carefully monitored and reported to a doctor. There are some medications that are contraindicated when someone is diagnosed with both dementia and depression, for example.
Depression can also accelerate the dementia process and general decline. I saw this with my Granny and it was very sad to witness. Depression can impact memory, focus, concentration, and “mimic” dementia. Having these conversations, increasing education and awareness, are critical to our health. Having trusted medical and mental health professionals are important. Using your strength and insight to know when to seek assistance will improve the quality of your life! Mental health therapy can still be very effective for someone in the early stages of dementia.
Take good care ~ Suzannah