We were the land of “Live Free or Die” long before it was a pop-culture political phenomenon. It is our state motto, decorates our license plates and is a fundamental value of most life-long residents of New Hampshire, regardless of political affiliation. So when one of our aging loved ones demonstrates periods of forgetfulness, confusion, or disorientation, it is unsettling to say the least. It is hard to envision someone we love “living free” after Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia has taken hold.
First, rest assured that, even with a diagnosis of dementia, our loved ones can still live a full, happy life. Second, and probably the most welcome news, it might not be dementia at all. Although these symptoms are a concern, they 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.
Explore more dementia-mimicking conditions and their treatment options from AARP.
Suddenly being placed in the role of family caregiver for an aging loved one can be overwhelming. The good news is, Live Free Home Health Care is here to support family caregivers. If you need more help – or just think you might need more help – please call us at (603) 217-0149. We will always listen, and we will always treat you like family.