May 4, 2009 -- Question: How do I tell the difference between depression and the symptoms of disease in a loved one with Alzheimer's?
Answer: Depression and so-called Alzheimer's disease are intimately related. And it's difficult to tell them apart because the symptoms include an apathy, perhaps sleep disturbances, and so they overlap. But I think we look for, early in the illness, people who are expressive about the challenges that they're facing, and the suffering that they feel is associated with that particular label.
And if people express those feeling of depression, when we ask them explicitly or when they share it, then we go down the path of depression, but understanding that these things are closely related. Depression can, for example, precede Alzheimer's or it can occur later in the illness as well.