March 8, 2016 by Dean Bellefeuille


With rates of Alzheimer’s disease reaching such epic numbers across the country, many of us feel overly concerned when we witness periods of forgetfulness, confusion, or disorientation in a senior loved one. And while a physician should investigate these symptoms, they may not mean what you think they mean. Certain symptoms that we traditionally associate with Alzheimer’s and dementia could be indicative of a variety of other conditions, many of which are easily treated, such as:

  • Urinary tract infections. UTIs are very common in the elderly, and often display differently than in younger patients, through delirium, confusion, agitation, or even hallucinations. A simple course of antibiotics, fluids, and rest can completely reverse these symptoms.
  • Thyroid disease. Thyroid-related symptoms can include forgetfulness, anxiety, depression, and lethargy – and it’s estimated that as many as 15 million adults (most over age 50) are currently undiagnosed. A blood test and medications may be all that are needed.
  • Vitamin deficiency. In particular, insufficient levels of vitamin B-12 can result in confusion, irritability, forgetfulness, and other symptoms that imitate dementia. Sometimes in aging, the body becomes unable to absorb B-12, resulting in a condition known as pernicious anemia. The problem is often correctable through monthly injections or oral supplements.
  • Alcohol abuse. According to Majid Fotuhi, founder of NeurExpand Brain Center, “Alcohol abuse, even binge drinking for a short time when you’re young, destroys brain cells in areas critical for memory, thinking, decision making and balance,” and can lead to a chronic memory disorder later in life. This condition can sometimes be reversed, however, through thiamine replacement therapy.

If your senior loved one is exhibiting forgetfulness, confusion, or any other signs that could point to dementia, make an appointment with his or her physician to rule out any other potential causes. Explore more dementia-mimicking conditions and their treatment options from AARP.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis, while troubling, doesn’t mean that seniors can’t still live safely and comfortably at home for as long as possible. The Syracuse senior care experts at At Home Independent Living can provide dedicated Alzheimer’s care or respite care to help your loved one and your family get the care you deserve. Contact us to learn more about our in home senior care services in the Syracuse area.