4 Health Conditions with Dementia-Like Symptoms

Posted By on October 22, 2022

As we get older, it’s crucial to our health to keep an eye out for any signs of cognitive decline. When we pay attention to our minds, behavior, and feelings, we can notice when something starts to feel off or different than normal. The reasoning? To ensure that we’re aware of any early signs and symptoms associated with dementia.

Knowing the signs and warnings of dementia can ensure an early diagnosis so that you or someone you love can begin planning for treatment and the future as soon as possible. However, this can be confusing, as other health conditions can often mimic dementia-like symptoms

HarborChase Senior Living wants to keep you informed, not only so you can have peace of mind regarding your health but also to understand how dementia progresses; and determine what health issue may be causing these symptoms.

Confusion Doesn’t Mean Memory Impairment

Confusion is not only a symptom of dementia. Many health conditions can lead to confusion, especially if these changes occur quickly or seemingly out of nowhere.

Sudden confusion is often referred to as “delirium,” and the signs are almost immediately noticeable:

  • Not being able to speak clearly
  • Feeling disoriented or unable to determine location or environment
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Having trouble remembering details

If you notice these patterns or changes in a person’s behavior, don’t rely on a self-diagnosis; speak to a healthcare provider – a medical professional needs to determine the underlying cause as soon as possible. Delirium is a recurring side effect to be wary of within the following health conditions.

1. Diabetes

If you know an older adult with diabetes, they might exhibit behaviors similar to dementia during a hypoglycemic episode. This occurs when blood sugar levels in the body drop to a dangerously low point. This deprives the brain of fuel and nutrients, leading to the following dementia-like symptoms:

  • Confusion doing basic tasks
  • Clumsiness, sometimes similar to that of being intoxicated
  • Irritability or impatience

Make sure that this person eats or drinks something with a high amount of sugar, like milk chocolate or a small glass of juice. This should regulate blood sugar and alleviate the situation. However, seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms don’t subside after consuming sugar.

2. Thyroid Disease

The thyroid is located in a small gland on the front of the neck and is responsible for creating hormones that regulate organ function while controlling how our bodies utilize food. When a person has a thyroid disorder, or if the thyroid is working too quickly or too slowly, it can affect mental health and behavior in the following ways:

  • Memory lapses
  • Anxiety or depression
  • The feeling of losing touch with reality

Talk to a doctor about determining whether your thyroid is causing any problems, and they will be able to provide the proper medication to control the levels of thyroid function. People typically see improvements right away. However, in some cases, it can take up to a few months to see a correction.

3. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Surveys have shown that around 1 in 10 women over the age of 65 have reported having UTIs in the past year. UTIs, which occur when bacteria enter your urethra and spread to your bladder or kidneys, become more common as we age and manifest much differently in older adults; most notably with cognitive symptoms, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

UTIs are easy to treat and diagnose; doctors will take a urine test to determine if there is an infection, which can be treated with an antibiotic.

4. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

When excessive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in the brain, it results in a disorder known as Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. The pressure is referred to as “normal” because, despite the amount of fluid building up in the brain’s ventricles, the CSF pressure measured during a spinal tap can still come up as normal. Normal pressure hydrocephalus can result in:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty completing routine tasks
  • Difficulty walking normally
  • Loss of bladder control

The symptoms are very similar to dementia, which is why it is often misdiagnosed or overlooked. To confirm cases of normal pressure hydrocephalus, doctors will run brain scans or test levels of CSF in the brain. 

At HarborChase Senior Living, our memory care communities provide resources to residents and families to ensure that everyone’s unique medical needs are understood, and necessary treatments are received.

Memory care communities are designed to treat individuals living with forms of dementia to keep them engaged and fulfilled through a personalized care experience. Our associates make a difference by transcending the expectations of care, going above and beyond to ensure that residents can live their lives with support and joy.

HarborChase invites you to discover how memory care can positively impact your family. Visit our website for more information and educational resources regarding dementia care.