Age Dementia Symptoms — Alzheimers Symptoms
Because the symptoms are almost identical, many health problems are often mistaken for Alzheimers and other age related dementia. But, the problems causing the symptoms are usually treatable if detected early enough. Prescription drugs interactions and side effects, vitamin B12 deficiency and dehydration most commonly produce false symptoms of dementia. (According to Consumer Reports on Health, "Any new health problem in an older person should be considered drug induced until proven otherwise.")
In other words, symptoms that some people (including many doctors) often dismiss as a "normal part of aging" — really aren't. If these symptoms are left untreated, your loved one could face a life of despair in a nursing home. But, if the symptoms are treated early enough, your loved one can very often regain a full and normal life.
If your loved one has one or more of the symptoms described on the preceding page, take him or her to a doctor as soon as possible. Determining the cause usually involves a team of medical specialists under the guidance of a patient's primary care doctor. For patients who are 65 or older, the tests and doctor charges are usually covered by Medicare.
The tests may involve some or all of the following, many of which are designed to rule out other possible causes for your loved one's problems:
An evaluation of memory and mental skills.
A physical exam, including a review of family medical history, to detect other medical problems, including possible interactions between prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, vitamins and/or mineral supplements. Many foods can also cause unexpected interactions with prescription medications.
A nutritional evaluation to determine if dietary problems or improper eating habits may be causing the problem.
Blood tests, including tests for vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies, thyroid hormone imbalances, anemia, etc.
A neurological exam to rule out other disorders of the brain such as Parkinson's disease, hydrocephalus (fluid accumulation in the brain), prior strokes and mini-strokes, brain tumors, etc.
Brain Scan (CT or MRI).
Important Note: Even if a doctor has a lot of older patients, that doesn't make the doctor an expert in the special problems of the elderly. If a doctor dismisses your loved one's memory problems as "just a part of growing older" or decides that he or she has Alzheimers or senility without testing for other possible problems like those we've described, we recommend that you get a second opinion from another doctor.
You might also wish to visit DementiaGuide. It offers helpful information about all forms of dementia, its symptoms and effects. More importantly, you'll find the convenient online service, SymptomGuide™, a practical tool for recording, tracking and measuring the effects of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of memory disorder and live in a rural area of Florida, the Alzheimer’s Rural Care Healthline (ARCH) program may be helpful. Their support and educational services are free. For more information, including their toll-free telephone number, click on Alzheimer’s Rural Care Healthline.
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