Senior couple talking with doctor

Cognitive Changes are Not Always Dementia

If you or your loved one is experiencing memory or cognitive changes, it may be something other than dementia, which may be treatable. There are several treatable diseases that mimic the symptoms of dementia.

So, if you notice your loved one acting strangely, it’s essential that they see a doctor as soon as you see changes. There could be something that is relatively simple to treat.

Learn More About Dementia

Attend our free “Understanding Dementia” program virtually on February 25th at 6:30.

8 Common Health Conditions That Can Cause Similar Cognitive Changes in Seniors

Urinary Tract Infection

UTIs can cause sudden confusion in older people. If the person has a sudden and unexplained change in their behavior, such as increased confusion, agitation, or withdrawal, this may be because of a UTI.  Many times older people do not even know they have a UTI as symptoms may not be present. Your doctor can run a urine test to see if this may be the cause of the changes in behavior.


Most seniors do not drink enough fluids and that can lead to cognitive changes that mimic dementia. Dehydration also can lead to more significant health issues so drinking fluids is vitally important, especially for seniors.

Thyroid Disease

The thyroid makes hormones that keep the body running smoothly. Too little or too much hormone can cause dementia-like symptoms. A primary care doctor can run a simple blood test to check thyroid levels.


Diabetes that has not been diagnosed could cause memory problems, confusion, and poor concentration. Ask your doctor to check for diabetes.

Alcohol Abuse

Over time, heavy drinking destroys brain cells that are critical for memory, decision making, balance, and thinking. The long-term effects of alcohol can be devastating. If this might be causing cognitive issues, speak with your doctor about treatment options.

Heart or Lung Conditions

If the heart or lungs are not working properly, they may not be supplying the brain with enough oxygen. This can affect alertness, memory, and executive functioning. Seeking the proper treatment quickly can prevent or delay symptoms caused by a lack of blood or oxygen to the brain.

Liver or Kidney Disease

Toxic metabolic waste can build up in the blood if the liver or kidneys are not functioning properly. This can cause cognitive changes. Your doctor can test the functioning of your kidneys and liver with a simple blood test.


Brain tumors can present with symptoms like dementia. They can interfere with the brain’s functioning and can also result in personality changes.

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