“Could it be dementia?”

As a dementia specialist, this is a question that I hear a lot.  The question is usually posed by someone over the age of 65 and is preceded by a long story about a simple lapse of memory or moment of confusion that probably does not warrant the concern.  After all, there isn’t one of us who hasn’t misplaced keys, put the milk in the cupboard instead of the refrigerator, or walked into a room forgetting why we were there in the first place.  And I’m pretty sure that we do not all have dementia.

However, to the individual who feels that something is not quite right and who lost their Aunt Beatrice to the disease, the fear of getting dementia is quite powerful and real.

But before you jump to the conclusion that what you have is dementia, it is important to rule out anything and everything else first.  Did you know that there are several issues and conditions that can mimic dementia?  These are called psuedo-dementias and they include (but are not limited to):  depression, infections (especially pneumonia and urinary tract infections), lack of adequate sleep, hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, vitamin B-12 deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, high levels of certain minerals (like copper), side effects of drugs, drug interactions, subdural hematomas, brain tumors, hydrocephalus, and over-consumption of alcohol.

So how can you be sure that the milk in the cupboard episode is or is not dementia? If you are concerned, the best person to ask is not me…it’s your doctor.  Make an appointment for a full physical and blood workup, and let him/her know that you have these concerns.  It could be dementia or it could be something simple and treatable.  It’s up to you to overcome the fears and to take the next steps toward discovery – no matter where those steps lead you.

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