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Confusion Isn’t Always Alzheimer’s: What Adult Children Should Know


When an aging loved one seems to be getting a little more forgetful or confused, it is easy for an adult child to leap to the conclusion they have Alzheimer’s disease. While both of these symptoms can be early indicators of Alzheimer’s or a related form of dementia, they can also be caused by less serious and often treatable health conditions.

7 Health Problems Which Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease

If you are concerned about new symptoms or behaviors in a Midwestern senior loved one, their primary care physician should be the first stop in determining what is wrong. There are a variety of common illnesses they will probably consider before making a definitive diagnosis:

  1. Medication Problems: Issues with medications are more common among older adults because they process medications differently. Side effects, drug interactions and adverse reactions can result in symptoms that can mimic dementia. They may include memory loss, disorientation and confusion.
  2. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): The classic symptoms of a UTI include disorientation and confusion in older adults. They can easily be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. Weaker immune systems and some chronic health conditions that are more common with aging often put seniors at higher risk for developing these types of infections.
  3. Thyroid Issues: It isn’t uncommon for adults to experience problems with their thyroid function in later years. They may develop hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Both conditions can result in problems with memory and attention span.
  4. Vitamin B-12 Deficiency. Another condition your senior loved one will likely be tested for is a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. It can cause problems concentrating, memory loss and confusion. Seniors who don’t have a healthy diet are at especially high risk for a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
  5. Diabetes: Uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes is another chronic health condition with symptoms that can resemble Alzheimer’s disease. Disorientation, agitation and unusual behaviors can all be the result of problems with blood sugar.
  6. Dehydration: Heat-related illnesses like dehydration can also look like Alzheimer’s.  Seniors are more susceptible to one during the humid days of a Midwestern summer. Common symptoms of a heat-related illness include confusion and disorientation.
  7. Depression:  An often overlooked cause of forgetfulness and confusion can be depression. Pseudodementia is the condition that occurs when a person’s depression results in symptoms that mimic Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is that unlike Alzheimer’s disease, the majority of these health conditions are treatable with early intervention. Making an appointment with your senior loved one’s primary care physician as soon as you suspect a problem is the key. Even if the diagnosis turns out to be Alzheimer’s, there are medications available that have shown to be promising in slowing the progression of the disease. 

Randall Residence

300 White Oak Rd Lawton, MI 49065