When a senior loved one exhibits one or more of the known markers of Alzheimer’s or dementia – forgetfulness, disorientation, confusion – our tendency can be to immediately think the worst. However, these symptoms in the elderly are common in a variety of conditions, many of which are treatable. Before jumping to conclusions about your senior loved one’s condition, consider the following possibilities:
- Urinary tract infections. UTIs are very common in the elderly, and often display differently than in younger patients, through delirium, confusion, agitation, or even hallucinations. A simple course of antibiotics, fluids, and rest can completely reverse these symptoms.
- Thyroid disease. Thyroid-related symptoms can include forgetfulness, anxiety, depression, and lethargy – and it’s estimated that as many as 15 million adults (most over age 50) are currently undiagnosed. A blood test and medications may be all that are needed.
- Vitamin deficiency. In particular, insufficient levels of vitamin B-12 can result in confusion, irritability, forgetfulness, and other symptoms that imitate dementia. Sometimes in aging, the body becomes unable to absorb B-12, resulting in a condition known as pernicious anemia. The problem is often correctable through monthly injections or oral supplements.
- Alcohol abuse. According to Majid Fotuhi, founder of NeurExpand Brain Center, “Alcohol abuse, even binge drinking for a short time when you’re young, destroys brain cells in areas critical for memory, thinking, decision making and balance,” and can lead to a chronic memory disorder later in life. This condition can sometimes be reversed, however, through thiamine replacement therapy.
Explore more dementia-mimicking conditions and their treatment options from AARP, and be sure your loved one sees the doctor if any unusual symptoms emerge.
Home Sweet Home In-Home Care provides a full range of Michigan home care services, including specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, to help seniors in St. Joseph and the surrounding area to lead more enriching lives while remaining safe and independent right at home. Call us at 269-849-9252 and allow us to answer any questions you have about in-home care for seniors, or to schedule a free assessment to determine how we can best be of assistance to your loved one.