Find a Community

5 Medical Conditions Often Mistaken for Alzheimer's

5 Medical Conditions Often Mistaken for Alzheimer's

<!–[CDATA[If a parent or other older loved one begins to exhibit signs of changes that are often associated with Alzheimer’s disease, adult children start to worry and wonder. Most people have heard that memory loss, getting lost in familiar places, and problems managing finances are warning signs of Alzheimer’s. While they can indeed be indicators of some form of dementia, they aren’t always. Sometimes the symptoms are an underlying issue of another problem.


Before you assume the worst, take a few minutes to learn about other medical conditions your senior loved one’s physician is likely to consider before arriving at a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Common Health Conditions That Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Dehydration: The dog days of summer like we are in now can increase the risk for dehydration and heat-related illnesses. Seniors sometimes take medication, such as diuretics or laxatives, that further increases the odds they will become dehydrated. Older adults who struggle with mobility are at risk year around if they aren’t able to get to the kitchen for water as frequently as they need to. Because the most common symptoms of dehydration are disorientation and confusion, it’s easy to see why families might think their loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia.
  2. Depression: This one often catches family members off guard. While they might think their senior loved one is a little down, most don’t realize the signs of depression can actually be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. These signs are also common in people with many different forms of dementia. An older adult who is depressed might become confused about the day and time, forget appointments or important events, fail to pay bills, and more. 
  3. Vitamin B-12 Deficiency: Seniors who lose interest in cooking or have trouble preparing meals often end up with vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin B-12. The symptoms can mimic Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that with medical intervention, a vitamin B-12 deficiency can usually be treated and the symptoms will resolve with treatment.
  4. Infection: Undiagnosed infections can also look like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Left untreated, infection can cause disorientation, memory loss, and confusion. Older adults with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for urinary tract infections, gastroenteritis, and respiratory infections. Fortunately, many infections and the symptoms they create can be reversed with proper treatment.
  5. Thyroid disorder: As we age, we are more likely to develop a thyroid problem. The symptoms can closely parallel those of Alzheimer’s disease: confusion, poor concentration, and agitation.

If you are concerned about a senior’s cognitive well-being, the best advice we can offer is to schedule an appointment with their primary care doctor. The physician can assess the situation and order the tests necessary to determine what is causing the symptoms.

Should the diagnosis turn out to be Alzheimer’s disease, please remember that there are steps you can take to help your family member continue to live their best quality of life at every stage of the disease. Call the Five Star Senior Living community nearest you to learn more about our Bridge to Rediscovery memory care program

Subscribe to the Five Star Blog

Don't miss out on the latest tips, research and stories from Five Star to help you and your
family navigate aging well.