When you or your loved ones are ill and exhibiting unfamiliar symptoms, you might be tempted to turn to Google or WebMD for the answer. Since no website can replace a real-life doctor, these platforms won’t be able to accurately diagnose the problem.
Many symptoms (and their combinations) can often point to multiple causes. For example, memory loss and a loss of balance could signal the onset of Alzheimer’s, but these could also be caused by hypothyroidism, anemia or Parkinson’s.
These are the typical symptoms of dementia–notably Alzheimer’s Disease–which typically develop over a period of months or years:
- Memory loss (especially short-term) and confusion
- Changes in personality, mood or behavior
- Difficulty communicating or finding the right words
- Inability to perform familiar tasks
- Emotional apathy, or a loss of interest in favorite activities and loved ones
An infection–like a chest infection or UTI–can cause sudden confusion or mood swings in older people. If the symptoms came on quickly, they aren’t likely indicators of dementia and can often be easily treated.
Hypothyroidism comes with symptoms like memory loss, irritability, depression and fatigue–all of which may look like dementia at first glance.
3. Head Trauma or Concussion
It could explain dementia-like symptoms, such as confusion and short-term memory loss. If they had a fall before symptoms began, this could be contributing to the problems. We recommend seeing a doctor immediately to confirm there’s no internal bleeding.
4. Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s is most easily recognized by the fact that it causes those it inflicts to shake, as well as experience rigid muscles, difficulty swallowing and inability to speak loudly. Its onset (on average age 62) is slightly earlier than Alzheimer’s (often diagnosed around age 65). However, like dementia, someone with Parkinson’s Disease may also experience memory loss, apathy, depression, and interrupted sleep.
5. Medication Side Effects
Side effects of medications can mimic symptoms of dementia in seniors. Painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications can cause memory issues and mood swings. Did they recently get a new prescription?
Because the symptoms of dementia could actually be due to a different underlying issue, the best way to know for sure is to see a doctor. It’s better to go home with a diagnosis and treatment plan than to wait and see if the symptoms get worse.
And if it turns out to be Alzheimer’s after all? Scientists are researching for a cure and there are ways to control and even slow symptoms as the disease progresses. There are medications and activities such as storytelling that can help stimulate memory and communication, and some lifestyle or location changes can help with irritability and other mood alterations. Since home care companies might have specialized memory care, it could be a viable option for full-time or supplementary care to support you and your family. Together with your doctor, you can find the best way to make life more comfortable for your loved one.