Today I want to talk about some common conditions that happen in older adults, that can look exactly like dementia, but it’s not dementia. The danger here is that if everyone just assumes it’s dementia, it can cause you and your loved one to be living lives that are significantly below the quality of life that you both can have.
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Sometimes as people age and start to show signs of confusion and forgetfulness, it’s easy for people to just assume they are having thinking problems, or the beginning stages of dementia when in fact it can be something entirely different. So let’s go over some of the common culprits.
Older adults who are depressed often present with symptoms that look exactly like dementia. They may be forgetful, lack energy, not shower/change, stop doing basic responsibilities such as paying bills. Their concentration may be poor. And so on. Counseling and in some cases medication can help treat this condition and people can show improvement.
Similarly, if someone has poor hearing, that means they aren’t able to hear what you say which means that later it will seem as if they “forgot” the information you told them when they never heard it in the first place. It is actually quite common for people to not realize their hearing has diminished and not mention anything about this. So unfortunately, something that can usually be corrected quite easily is often missed and poor hearing in older adults comes with a high risk of depression and later cognitive decline as they withdraw more and more from interaction.
So it’s possible for someone without dementia at all to appear like they have dementia if they have an underlying infection such as a UTI. Also, it’s possible for someone with dementia, to have an underlying condition and all of a sudden appear a whole lot worse and it may be easy to just assume the dementia is worsening when it’s actually the infection and it needs treatment. Once the infection is treated, the thinking shows improvement for both those with and without dementia before the infection.
People with low vitamin b12 can appear to have dementia. That’s why it’s important to make sure you and your loved ones are getting regular check ups at the doctor to catch some of these things and help get them treated so they don’t lead to more long term memory problems.
NPH (Normal pressure hydrocephalus)
This is a condition where the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) builds up in the ventricles of the brain and the brain isn’t absorbing or draining the CSF as normal. This causes the ventricles to enlarge from the excess fluid and it presses on other areas of the brain. This condition usually presents with difficulty walking, urinary incontinence, and memory loss or confusion. This can be easily mistaken for dementia and in fact does lead to dementia but this is treatable by placing a shunt in the brain to help relieve the pressure.
All that being said, if you or your loved one is presenting with new cognitive symptoms and you haven’t been seen by your healthcare provider yet, it’s important to do so and not assume it’s just dementia because it could be something else.
Alright Careblazer, I hope that was helpful. I’ll be back next week.