Apr 01
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Senior Woman in Thought

5 Conditions that Imitate Alzheimer's Disease

Posted by Oaks Senior Living | 3 minute read

When a parent or family member begins experiencing memory loss or other symptoms that are commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, it may cause concern that he or she is developing a form of dementia. 

However, there are numerous treatable conditions whose symptoms can mimic Alzheimer’s disease. Oaks Senior Living offers assisted living and memory care throughout Georgia, and we want to share various conditions that can cause you to notice Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in a parent or older loved one. 

Regardless of symptoms, it is vital to visit a physician and get a proper diagnosis. The following conditions are treatable, but the earlier they are caught, the better they can be treated.

1. Medication Side Effects

As we age, our bodies have more difficulty processing and eliminating the toxic effects that some medications cause. Additionally, certain drugs interact with one another and can cause symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, such as memory loss or confusion. 

If your loved one has been prescribed new or multiple medications, check with their physician and ask how they interact with one another and their possible side effects.

2. Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

Your body needs vitamin B-12 to make red and white blood cells, nerves, and DNA, but it cannot make this nutrient on its own. Vitamin B-12 can be found in animal products like meat and dairy, but the body’s ability to absorb this vitamin from food can decrease with age. 

According to AARP, a vitamin B-12 deficiency can result in “nerve damage such as numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, confusion, personality changes, irritability, depression, and forgetfulness.” All of which are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Thyroid Disorder

By producing and dispersing hormones, your thyroid helps your body to efficiently perform all its functions. If the thyroid is over or underactive (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism), this could cause symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. These symptoms include having trouble focusing, feeling anxious or depressed, finding it difficult to learn new things, or not being able to recall a recent event.

4. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

“UTIs are often missed in older people because seniors rarely have the typical symptoms of a high fever or pain. Instead, there may be memory problems, confusion, delirium, dizziness, agitation, even hallucinations (AARP).”

A urinary tract infection happens when bacteria builds up in the bladder. These bacteria can cause infections that inhibit the brain’s ability to send and receive signals, eventually leading to confusion and memory problems. 

While trouble with memory and confusion are also associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, these signs progress slowly. When confusion and memory loss are caused by a UTI, these symptoms progress quickly. 

5. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a condition caused by the gradual buildup of spinal fluid in the brain. The Hydrocephalus Association states, “without appropriate diagnostic testing, NPH is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, or the symptoms are attributed to the aging process.”

What happens is as the spinal fluid builds up in the brain, it causes swelling and pressure that can lead to brain tissue damage. A common symptom that is usually noticed first is a change in or difficulty walking. Individuals with normal pressure hydrocephalus often shuffle their feet or widen their stance for balance. Additional symptoms of the condition include problems with thinking and memory or a lack of concentration.

If you are noticing any symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in your parent or family member, seek medical attention as soon as possible. While each of the above conditions is treatable and reversible, the sooner your loved one is diagnosed, the easier the treatment process will be.

Free Resource: Alzheimer's & Dementia Symptom Tracker

If a diagnosis does come back as a form of dementia, there are additional care options like transitioning your loved one into a memory care community such as Oaks Senior Living throughout Georgia. Our compassionate, person-centered memory care services are designed to support residents in their daily lives while encouraging independence and offering opportunities for socialization and stimulation.

To learn more about our memory care or senior living communities in Georgia, we invite you to contact a member of the Oaks Senior Living team or visit our website.

 Alzheimer's & Dementia

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