This Webinar focuses on the differentiation between typical behaviors associated with dementia versus the common behaviors associated with depression in older adults.   Distinguishing between dementia and depression can be complex and is often complicated by confusing and conflicting information from the individual and their family members; the view of depression and/or dementia as a normal part of aging, and the overlapping symptoms and behaviors that present with both depression and dementia. Type of dementia disorder, stage of the disease and the degree of cognitive capacity are also factors that may present a challenge to the diagnostic process. This presentation provides a basic overview of dementia and depression in older adults highlighting specific examples of overlapping symptoms and behaviors in order to successfully develop strategies for appropriate recognition and intervention.

Intended Audience

This presentation is intended for staff from many levels, disciplines and settings.  Attendees include, Long Term Care (LTC) administrators, Professionals, Paraprofessionals (e.g., direct care) in LTC, etc.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this presentation participants wil have increased understanding related to:

  1. Symptoms of depression in older adults.
  2. Symptoms of dementia in older adults.
  3. Similarities and differences between depression and dementia in older adults.
  4. A case study differentiating between depression and dementia.


It is normal to become depressed as individuals get older and live in long-term care facilities.FALSE
Depressed residents should be able to “snap out of it” (i.e. use their willpower to get better).FALSE
Family members can be helpful when working with depressed residents.TRUE
Older adults do not change; therefore, there is no need to treat their depressionFALSE
Weight loss, difficulties falling asleep and concentration problems can be signs of depression in older adults.TRUE
If a resident reports guilt about the past he or she might be depressed.TRUE
Agitation can be a sign of depression.TRUE
Confusion and memory lapses in older people can sometimes be due to physical conditions that doctors can treat so that these symptoms go away over time.TRUE
Becoming disoriented (such as getting lost or losing track of what day it is) happens to persons with Alzheimer’s disease, but only in the later stages of the disease.FALSE
Memory loss that disrupts daily life can be a symptom of dementia.TRUE
Confusion with time or place can be a symptom of dementia.TRUE
Alzheimer’s disease is the only illness that leads to confusion and memory problems in older adultsFALSE
Symptoms develop slowly after onset and throughout the course of the
illness in a person with…
Social skills are often maintained in a person with …DEMENTIA
Difficulties with behavior and symptoms at night are typically of
patients with…
A person with ________ makes very little effort to perform basic tasks.DEMENTIA
A person with _______ complains very little about cognitive loss.DEMENTIA


Tracey Gendron, Assistant Professor, Department of Gerontology, received an MS in Psychology and an MS in Gerontology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also currently a doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology program at VCU.

She teaches in the areas of Biology and Physiology of Aging, Research Methods, and Grant Writing. Research areas include professional identity development, service-learning, community engagement, health disparities, cultural competence and ageism.

She has received several grant awards with community partners to develop and implement programs and coordinate services in the Richmond area, including A Grace Place Adult Care Center and the Rappahannock Indian Tribe.

Tracey conducts community trainings and invited lectures on a variety of topics including aging in a culturally diverse society, ageism and gerontophobia, and lifespan development.

Andrew L. Heck, Psy.D., ABPP is a licensed clinical psychologist and Clinical Director at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital in Burkeville, Virginia.  As Clinical Director, he is responsible for the Social Work, Psychology, and Rehabilitation departments, as well as the overall clinical operations of the hospital.  Dr. Heck has dedicated his career to the care and understanding of elderly individuals with moderate to severe mental illness, and is board-certified in Clinical Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Psychology.

He holds clinical faculty appointments in the Departments of Gerontology, Pharmacy, and Psychiatry departments at Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds leadership positions in several local and national organizations related to mental health and older adults.  His particular areas of interest include dementia evaluation, decision-making competency and capacity, behavioral treatment, and ethics in working with the elderly.


E.  Ayn Welleford, PhD, received her BA in Management/Psychology from Averett College, MS in Gerontology and PhD in Developmental Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has taught extensively in the areas of Lifespan Development, and Adult Development and Aging, Geropsychology, and Aging & Human Values.

As an educator, researcher, and previously as a practitioner she has worked with a broad spectrum of individuals across the caregiving and long term care continuum.

As Associate Professor and Chair of VCU’s Department of Gerontology, she currently works to “Improve Elder Care through Education” through her Teaching, Scholarship, and Community Engagement.Outside of the classroom, Dr. Welleford provides community education and serves on several boards and committees.  She is the Immediate Past Chair of the Governor’s Commonwealth of Virginia Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Commission. Dr. Welleford is the proud recipient of the 2008 AGHE Distinguished Teacher Award.

This event is made possible by the VCU’s Department of Gerontology.