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Late Life Depression, Late-onset Depression and Dementia

Can you develop depression when you are past some of the most stressful times of life?

So, you’ve raised your children, achieved success in a career and now you’re considering downsizing and finally, retirement. But, you don’t feel quite like yourself. You tell yourself, “I should be happy, but I’m not.” You don’t enjoy things like you used to, you lack energy and engagement with others, and your appetite is poor and you’re not sleeping well. Maybe you’re moving a little slower and not as quick to solve problems or remember things you’re supposed to do. What could be wrong?

You see your physician, who is all too familiar with this condition, and sends you for a neuropsychological evaluation, which reveals that you are suffering from Late Life Depression (LLD). You protest, “I’ve experienced sadness like everyone else, but I’ve never been depressed in my life!” So, what is LLD?

This diagnosis is not to be confused with late-onset depression, which means, more simply, that a typical clinical depression develops later in one’s life. Confused? What differentiates LLD is the underlying neurological changes in the brain. Both are treatable, but LLD has greater implications for more serious, long-term health concerns like dementia.

LLD is defined with an age threshold of 60. Approximately 10 percent of the 60-and-over population is estimated to suffer from LLD in the United States. There is considerable reduction in discrepancy between genders in this population since middle-aged females already suffer from depression at higher rates. If you have chronic illness such as a myocardial infarction or stroke, chances are greater that you will develop LLD.

A key feature of LLD is often the presence of cognitive deficits in meaning, memory, organization, planning, and reasoning, to a degree greater than that expected for your age. Generally, LLD is more difficult to treat than Late-onset Depression, and relapse rates are higher. Furthermore, those with LLD are more likely to age into dementia.

Differentiating these two types of depression is imperative for accurate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, a neuropsychological evaluation may be warranted and recommended.

About the Author

Compassionate Neuropsychology, LLC

Neuropsychological Assessment with a Human Touch

Jennifer Wilson-Binotti, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Clinical Neuropsychologist

Dr. Wilson-Binotti has worked with older adults since 2012 during her post-doctoral training in Downstate Illinois. She has experience working with those aged 50+ who have increased anxiety or depression, or a decline in functional or cognitive (thinking, memory) abilities. She previously served over 20 nursing/rehab/long-term care facilities and was on staff at six suburban hospitals, remaining on staff at Edward and Linden Oaks Hospitals in Naperville, IL. Currently, she sees patients at nursing facilities and in private residences when seniors are no longer able to physically leave their homes.

Her relaxed and warm demeanor helps patients feel comfortable and perform their best during neuropsychological testing. Many patients have described their experience with Dr. Wilson-Binotti as “fun,” and some even look forward to doing it again!

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