4 Common Conditions That Mimic Dementia

Last December my mom suddenly couldn’t follow conversations between me and my children.  She was alarmingly disoriented to the point where I felt I could not talk to her at all and expect any comprehension on her part.I never considered the possibility of her losing lucidity as she was always sharp as a whip often memorizing license plates to keep her mind active.

This change in her demeanor was so abrupt with no warning.  I did some research on dementia and Alzheimer’s to find out how to help or support her.  I discovered that sudden onset of dementia or Alzheimer like behavior may have other causes that mimic dementia.  I found four common conditions that can mimic dementia in seniors.

1. Dehydration

One that caught my eye was dehydration because I noticed ever since my mom had incontinence problems she was drinking a lot less water.  When I asked her about it, she admitted she was not drinking water.  She had noticed her disorientation and felt concerned but was understandably in denial about it.

When I explained that her forgetfulness and disorientation might be caused by dehydration she was alarmed but relieved that there might a simple solution.  She started drinking more water everyday and within a month her mental capacity had returned.

2.  Infection

As adults age their immune systems weaken and infections become common in the urinary, intestinal and respiratory tracts.  As I was researching this information,  a client happened to mention a problem she was having with one of her elderly clients.

Apparently, her client was acting erratic, paranoid, and obstinate.  It turned out she had an undiagnosed bladder infection, common in older women, that was causing this aggressive angry behavior. My client explained she did not know why, but often when her elderly clients display this kind of behavior, the cause is bladder infection.

3.  Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Another common condition that can mimic dementia is a vitamin B12 deficiency. Seniors often lose interest in cooking or have trouble preparing properly balanced meals.  This results in a vitamin b12 deficiency.  Fortunately, this can be treated and often resolves after intervention.

4.  Depression

This one surprised me, but depression can mimic dementia.  The older adult, when depressed may forget to take their medicine, eat meals, forget about doctor appointments, forget to pay bills, or lose track of the day and time.

If you have a parent or friend that suddenly displays signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, explore these options first before assuming the worst.  It’s worth a try and could save you and your loved ones a lot of unnecessary emotional trauma.


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