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7 Conditions that Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease

Family caregivers in Massachusetts and across the country often panic when an aging parent first begins to exhibit behaviors we commonly associate with Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms we might assume means the diagnosis is dementia include forgetfulness and confusion. These can be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, but they can also be caused by other illnesses that are treatable. Calling to schedule an appointment with your loved one’s physician should be the first step. They will likely conduct a physical exam to rule out other conditions before settling on a Alzheimer’s disease.

7 Health Conditions that Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease

1. Infections

Older adults with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to infections. Some of them, like a urinary tract infection, can cause disorientation and confusion.

2. Medication Side Effects

As we age, our bodies process medications differently. We often need a smaller dosage even for a prescription that has worked well for many years. A common side effect of a drug interaction or adverse reaction is confusion.

3. Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

One of the first conditions your family physician may suspect is a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. The symptoms of it closely parallel Alzheimer’s: forgetfulness, confusion and memory loss. Older adults are at higher risk because they don’t always maintain a healthy diet.

4. Thyroid disease

As we age, our risk for developing thyroid disease increases. Having a thyroid that is overactive or underactive can create dementia-like symptoms.

5. Depression

Another possible cause of forgetfulness, inattentiveness, and lethargy can be depression. Pseudodementia occurs when a person’s depressed mood creates symptoms that can be confused with Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Dehydration

Memory loss, disorientation and confusion can all be a result of dehydration. The summer’s heat isn’t the only time of year seniors are at risk for it either. Dehydration can also occur when seniors who have a history of falls are reluctant to drink more because they fear the extra trips to the kitchen for water and the additional trips to the bathroom will increase the odds of falling again.

7. Uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes

If blood sugar is too high or too low or diabetes isn’t controlled, the resulting behavior can look like dementia.

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