What if it’s not dementia?

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-9-27-18-amWhat if it’s not dementia? was written for the Aged Care Guide, published with them on 19 October 2016. I feel it is important to share it here as well, as there is so much fear mongering in the media about dementia, it is perhaps the cause of dementia now being the most feared disease of all, and may be preventing people from talking to their doctors about concerns they have about changes to their own health.

Important reminder: this is not medical advice; the fear of dementia has increased so much, it is simply a reminder that not all cognitive impairment is as a result of an impending dementia, or a dementia, and if you are worried, you should seek medical advice from your own doctor.

“There is an increasing awareness of dementia globally due to many of the awareness raising campaigns that have been run though advocacy organisations like Alzheimer’s Australia or the Alzheimer’s Society UK, such as Dementia Friends UK or the increasing numbers of Dementia Friendly Communities initiatives.

These are positive steps in raising awareness in the community and adopting the human rights and disability rights based approach previous pioneered by Alzheimer’s Scotland and now being pursued at the highest levels globally by Dementia Alliance International in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Disease International.

However, along with the positives of raising awareness, these campaigns may also increase the fear of dementia, especially when there is still minimal pharmaceutical treatment and no cure in sight.

Dementia, of which there are more than 100 types or causes, which also includes Alzheimer’s disease, is simply an umbrella term in the same way the word cancer is used, and it has now become the most feared disease ahead of cancer.

This may cause people to not want to seek a diagnosis. In fact, whilst the public discourse continues to focus on the ‘suffering’ and hopelessness of dementia, and the language of fear and war, rather than promoting the reality of people being diagnosed earlier in the disease living longer with more productive lives, this fear will continue.

With headlines almost daily declaring the rising rates of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, it’s far too easy to get that distressing feeling that a misplaced set of car keys or the forgetting of someone’s name means you are heading towards or have dementia.

A few years ago at an Australian Government Minister’s Dementia Advisory Group meeting I attended, I said to one of the geriatricians next to me that, if I was over 70 and was worried I had dementia, I’d probably not bother to tell my doctor. He looked at me with a wry smile and said,

“But what if the doctor could cure you?”

It is important you know that more than 100 disorders ranging from the side effects of medication to urinary tract infections that can also trigger dementia-like symptoms. Some are not serious, but they are often missed or misdiagnosed, and also can explain in part why dementia is often difficult to diagnose. Many of these conditions that have similar symptoms to dementia are reversible, and perhaps therefore we need to be less fearful of dementia.

Some of the more common conditions that have dementia-like symptoms include delirium, urinary tract infections, polypharmacy, reactions to some medications, depression or another mental health disorder, vitamin D deficiency, thyroid disorders, and even diabetes.

Conditions such as Lyme’s Disease also mimic dementia symptoms. Our health is complicated, and it is always important to seek medical advice for any changes in your health, including changes to your memory or other cognitive functioning.Although our chance of having dementia increases with age, dementia is not a normal part of ageing, and even at the age of 85 only 1 in three people will have dementia.

Therefore, if you do have dementia-like symptoms or are worried you might have dementia, do seek medical advice. It may turn out it is one of these other conditions that your doctor can treat, and your dementia-like symptoms could disappear!”


16 thoughts on “What if it’s not dementia?

  1. Diagnosed with a dementia 2year ago with mri and pet scans. Now having another mri as the professor said he doesn’t think I have it (ps. I edited this comment)


    • Good luck getting a diagnosis, or not, and at least finding out what is wrong, as anyone going through these types of tests can and usually do find it very stressful… sending hugs xx


  2. They should spend equal time reporting on Chemtrails and the fact they are spewing the skies with high levels of Aluminum. Perhaps there wouldn’t be as much Dementia if they stopped spraying the innocent people with these toxic substances. Seems it is never ending! Be well Kate. Thought of you yesterday as we received our first snowfall 😦 I would imagine you have your bathing suits out. Lucky you. Hugs…VK ❤


  3. Hi Kate
    I’m sure you are on the same track as me. I have said since I was diagnosed with dementia three years ago what happens if I get another condition with the same symptoms. Since I have been diagnosed with dementia I have never had another blood test even though the symptoms have got slowly worse but I said to a psychologist who was talking about dementia if I had a thyroid problem or a vitamin deficiency how would they know when they only see the dementia. Perhaps the answer would be to have a check on your physical health as well as you mental health at least once every one or two years. Even your carer can think it’s just a sudden deterioration in the dementia when as you say it’s another condition that can mimic the dementia.


    • Hi Lesley… it is a very good point. My local doctor checks all my other health issues, before he redoes the referral needed annually for my neurologist, including a full blood work up, inc Vit D and including anything else relevant to changes in my dementia symptoms … I had thought maybe all local drs would do that, but it sounds like they do not! Take care 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Kate that doesn’t happen on the NHS I do see somebody regularly but bloods are not part of this. Unless you tell them you have problems but PWD wouldn’t know and most carers wouldn’t as well they would think it was a deterioration in the condition.


  4. Thanks Kate for sharing. First, my policy is to not worry about those things I cannot control. Second, I have always believed that finding out what is “going wrong” is always better than now knowing. As the article says, what if it can be cured if caught early enough? I just filled out some “End of Life” forms to share with next of kin what your wishes are and one of them that I checked was, “I want to know fully the extent of any illness and its trajectory and consequences!” Hell, you only live once so I certainly do not want to die “dumb or protected!” Whether life or death: BRING IT ON!

    Liked by 1 person

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