Health Conditions That Mimic Dementia

If you are an adult child caring for an aging parent, you may be observing a few behaviors that are setting off alarm bells that something is wrong. It might be forgetfulness, confusion or one of the other symptoms commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These can all be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. But they can also be caused by several other reversible illnesses and conditions. Before a physician settles on a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, they will likely perform tests to rule out other potential causes.

6 Health Conditions that Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. If your loved one has recently started or discontinued a new medication either one could be the culprit. Some medicines commonly taken by older adults can create confusion. A new medication might also be interacting with an existing prescription or over-the-counter medicine to create an adverse reaction. There are also some medications that can’t be abruptly discontinued without risking harmful side effects. Review your loved one’s medication list with their physician and pharmacist to see if anything on it could be causing the troubling symptoms you are witnessing.
  2. A common cause of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms is a Vitamin B deficiency. If an older adult doesn’t maintain a healthy diet full of B-12 rich foods like fish, eggs, red meat, enriched cereals, and low-fat dairy products, a B-12 deficiency might be the source of their problems.
  3. Thyroid disease can also mimic dementia. If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) it can cause memory loss and other dementia-like symptoms. This can be easily diagnosed with a blood test.
  4. Depression can be another possible cause of forgetfulness, inattentiveness, and lethargy. Pseudodementia occurs when a person’s depressed mood creates symptoms that can be confused with Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. Dehydration can lead to memory loss, disorientation and confusion. People often believe summer’s warmer weather is the most common cause of dehydration, but our elderly are actually at risk all year long. That is because as we age our body often fails to recognize thirst. Dehydration can also occur when seniors who have mobility problems are unable to get to the kitchen as often as they need to for water.
  6. If blood sugar is too high or two low or diabetes isn’t controlled, the resulting behavior can look like dementia. It is important for older adults to have blood tests done to detect these conditions and treat them quickly.

While the number of older adults in Michigan and across the U.S. being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s continues to climb, it is important not to jump to the conclusion of Alzheimer’s disease without further testing. The conditions outlined above can typically be reversed or controlled with the proper treatment.

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