Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Comparison of the Clinical Features of Delirium, Dementia, and Depression

To view a chart which compares that clinical features of delirium, dementia and depression click here.

Other points to keep in mind:

  • If delirium or risk of suicide is suspected, health-care providers should take immediate action to refer individuals to the appropriate services.
  • When it is difficult to differentiate between a diagnosis of delirium, dementia, or delirium superimposed on dementia, delirium should be treated first.
  • Hypoactive delirium can be misinterpreted as depression and requires careful assessment.
  • Often, depression must be treated before a diagnosis of dementia can occur.
  • If a person is acutely ill or is experiencing delirium, it is recommended that health-care providers postpone in-depth assessments and a diagnosis until the person is stable and reversible causes are addressed.
Older Adults
Delirium, Dementia, and Depression in Older Adults: Assessment and Care
Point of Care Resources