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Dementia or Mental Illness – The Difficulty in Finding a Proper Diagnosis in the Elderly

Dementia or Mental Illness – The Difficulty in Finding a Proper Diagnosis in the Elderly


When some people think of dementia or mental illness, they assume it is one of the same. However, that just isn’t true. For the most part, dementia usually affects the elderly. The illnesses develop slowly but have permanent and irreversible consequences. Whereas, mental illnesses are usually treatable and can sometimes be cured with the proper medication.

According to a 2010 Homeless Research Institute study, there were over 44,000 homeless seniors across the nation. That number is projected to increase to close to 60,000 senior homeless by 2020. How many of these senior will suffer from some type of dementia or mental health issues?

It is estimated that nearly half of adults in the U.S. will experience some form of mental health condition during their lifetime. So, if you are at the grocery store, sitting on a bus, plane or train, or working at your office, you are probably sitting or standing next who has some type of mental disorder.

What Are the Differences?

Dementia – This is a term that defines the general symptoms of a greater group of illnesses. These illnesses cause a continuous destruction of the brain and alter the way humans function. Dementia sufferers have problems communicating and suffer memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but other illnesses such as Mild Cognitive Impairment, Korsakoff’s syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease are others.

Brain injury or some condition that leads to memory loss is what causes dementia. In addition, people suffering from dementia become forgetful, begin to have problems thinking or reasoning, and they might not recognize friends, family, or others. People who suffer from this might appear healthy on the exterior, but their brains are not functioning properly.

It takes on average about six months for the condition to be detected and in later phases many people become disoriented and confused. Early dementia is treatable to a certain degree. However as the illness advances, it is incurable.

Mental Illness – A mental illness is a medical condition that affects your mood. It can interfere with the way you think, and it can influence the way you act with others. Mental illnesses include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar and panic disorders, schizophrenia, as well as many others.

Since all of these conditions can take up to six months to diagnose, it only shows the urgency to have seniors properly monitored, so they receive the correct care. There is no such illness as being old and cranky. Crankiness is probably a sign of some other medical condition, but no one will know that unless seniors get diagnosed.

Dementia or Mental Illness – Conclusion

A Dementia or mental illness understanding requires better education and information. Some seniors who have mental illnesses have not received the proper medical care or have been misdiagnosed. If you know other seniors who seems to struggle from a mental health issue, make sure to point this out with their doctor to ensure they are getting the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Useful Resources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Applewood Our House has four residential assisted living homes for those with memory care needs.

Applewood Our House has a Better Business Bureau A+ Rating.

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