Brickmont Assisted Living Blog

4 Conditions That Imitate Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by The Brickmont Assisted Living Team on Jun 1, 2021 8:00:00 AM | 4 minute read

Brickmont_Conditions That Imitate

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts more than 6 million Americans and causes memory loss, thinking difficulties, and behavior problems. However, many people only associate it with memory loss.

While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be emotional for a family, sometimes, other conditions can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. At times, even enough to stump a healthcare professional. It’s crucial to get the correct diagnosis from the beginning because, while Alzheimer’s disease is unfortunately incurable, most of the conditions that imitate it can be treated or reversed with early intervention. 

Brickmont Assisted Living has memory care communities throughout the Atlanta, Georgia, area, and we want to share some common health conditions that can mirror the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. 

1. Thyroid Disease 

Thyroid diseases are common and affect people of all ages. While these conditions are lifelong, they can be easily treated and managed. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can cause dementia-like symptoms, including forgetfulness, increased anxiety, unexplained weight loss or gain, trouble sleeping, and depression. 

Diagnosis and Treatment 

In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms of thyroid disease are easily confused with those of other conditions, like pregnancy, menopause, or simply aging. Fortunately, both hyper- and hypothyroidism can be quickly and definitively diagnosed with a simple blood test. 

From here, most thyroid problems can be treated effectively. Research indicates that after treatment, symptoms of memory loss and confusion will subside, and cognitive functioning will improve.

2. Vitamin B12 Deficiency

While a vitamin deficiency may seem like a minor condition, it can be extremely harmful and cause severe symptoms. Since older adults have an insufficient ability to absorb Vitamin B12, they are particularly susceptible to a deficiency and are more at risk of developing symptoms that mimic dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. When a Vitamin B12 deficiency becomes severe, it can lead to symptoms such as memory loss, paranoia, and difficulty reasoning.  

Diagnosis and Treatment 

Since other conditions can easily cause the symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s vital to detect it early to get proper treatment. This condition most commonly affects older adults, vegetarians, or those who have had weight-loss surgeries, so if you know that your family member is at higher risk, their doctor can perform a blood test to check their B12 levels. 

If a deficiency is detected, a supplement or injection can boost B12 levels. This can typically reverse any cognitive decline before it becomes permanent.

3. Medications 

If your family member has started showing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, check to see if they’ve recently started any new medications. Many medications have been shown to impact attention, memory, and problem-solving—all of which are symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. These medications, known as anticholinergic drugs, are used by approximately 25% of older adults to treat a wide range of common conditions, including anxiety, allergies, asthma, high cholesterol, and pain. While these popular medications serve their prescribed purpose, many have the unintended side effects of dementia-like symptoms. 

Diagnosis and Treatment 

Talk with your family member’s doctor if you suspect a new medication is at fault for any symptoms of confusion, irritability, and memory loss. They can usually help determine what is interfering with cognitive functioning and help re-examine their medication list.

4. Dehydration 

Most healthy adults are only at risk of dehydration after a strenuous workout or during the summer heat. For older adults, though, dehydration is a concern all the time, as age affects the body’s ability to signal thirst. If left untreated, severe dehydration can cause symptoms that mirror Alzheimer’s disease, including confusion, disorientation, and increased irritability. 

Diagnosis and Treatment 

Fortunately, dehydration can be easily prevented by consuming sufficient fluids regularly, and any signs of dehydration, including cognitive deficits, will typically subside after replenishing fluids. However, prolonged dehydration can put stress on the body and brain and result in continued cognitive decline, so it’s essential to ensure your family member is adequately hydrated at all times. 

The Bottom Line 

Even though it may be challenging, it’s important not to jump to the conclusion of Alzheimer’s disease every time your parent or family member’s behavior or cognizance changes. Several conditions, including normal aging, can imitate the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s best to speak with your family member’s healthcare provider at the first occurrence of any symptoms so that they can evaluate and manage them.  

If it’s determined that your family member is experiencing Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to remember that early detection is key in managing and treating symptoms. From there, you and your family can consider the next steps, including a memory care community, if needed. 

At Brickmont Assisted Living, we offer effective memory care services throughout Atlanta, Georgia. Our “Silver Linings” Memory Care program delivers personalized care and daily engagement, all in a safe and inviting environment. 

If you are interested in learning more about memory care at Brickmont Assisted Living, we encourage you to contact our team today.

Topics: Memory Care

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