Delirium, dementia and depression are the three commonest mental disorders in the aging population. Most people tend to confuse the three conditions, especially delirium and dementia because all of them have symptoms in common. However there are quite a number of marked differences between these disorders. It is thus, important to understand the distinctions in order to treat the disorders successfully.
In simple terms, delirium is an acute state of confusion. Its course fluctuates and is characterized by attention deficits, cognitive malfunctioning, hallucinations and disoriented behavior, all of which are present in the case of dementia and severe depression. The key identifier of delirium is its onset. A person can experience symptoms within hours or days unlike in the case of dementia which takes time, sometimes up to several years to show the symptoms. Dementia is characterized by impaired cognitive abilities such as loss of memory, inability to think logically or solve problems, sense of detachment and impaired behavior. The course of dementia is longer and it mostly occurs in older adults as a result of loss of brain tissue. The cognitive impairments in the case of dementia tends to be much severe than that of delirium.
Depression on the other hand is characterized by loss of communication skills, detachment, aversive behavior, feeling lonely and hopeless and sometimes self harm. Suffers of dementia and delirium can engage in self harm too, but mostly due to hallucinations or false perceptions they experience.
So, how different are the various treatment methods of dementia, delirium and depression? Researchers attempt to draft appropriate answers for this question every day. Most often dementia cannot be treated, but can only be prevented and managed. But delirium can be reversed to a certain extent. Depression in old adults is quite simpler to treat in comparison to the above two conditions. Let us first explore some methods in which depression in older adults can be treated.
The commonest reasons for depression in older adults include loss of loved ones, loneliness, change in life courses and feeling regrets, sense of loss about the life they have already spend. Thoughts about death and not having sufficient means of income, plus diseases are also causes of depression. In addition to taking antidepressants, living an active life, engaging in philanthropic and religious activities, adults must necessarily experience a great deal of affectation and care by family. Behavioral interventions are the most promising treatment for this condition.
Since delirium and dementia both are characterised by psychosis, antipsychotic drugs are prescribed. Sedatives may be necessary in more severe cases. Almost 80% of the older inpatients at mental health care units suffer from dementia. Cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed for dementia in addition to antipsychotic. Most often cognitive therapy is of no use, especially if the sufferer is in the severe stages of the diseases. Behavioral assistance, where the patients are taught how to take care of themselves, communicate, behave appropriately, etc, are essential parts of the therapy.
However, adults with active lifestyles, spend time with loved ones engaging in pleasurable activities, those who stay sexually active, eat healthy (Mediterranean diets are highly recommended), have stable means of income, live with family or friendly homes, are very much unlikely to develop delirium, dementia or depression even at very old ages.