Common diagnoses for elderly confusion
There are many causes for confusion in the elderly. Often the first response to a loved one acting confused is to assume the worst and that there is some type of dementia at play. Even so, there are several of common diagnoses that can lead to an elderly person’s confusion. If you are the caregiver for your parent or loved one, you need to be watchful for any changes in their mental status.
So what should you do if your elderly parent seems confused? Read about the below conditions and their symptoms then consult with the elder’s doctor.
Urinary tract infections (UTI)
Even something as simple as a urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause confusion in the elderly.
Typical UTI signs include:
- Cloudy and/or bloody urine
- Strong/foul-smelling urine
- Pain/burning sensation when urinating
- Frequent need to urinate
- Night sweats, shakes or chills
- Low-grade fever
However, it’s often hard for a caregiver to find out about an elderly person’s possible UTI, as common symptoms aren’t apparent in some people. Also an elderly person often doesn’t want to express symptoms to the caregiver due to embarrassment and other factors.
Lack of sleep/sleep apnea
It’s no secret that older persons tend to sleep less than when they were younger. However, this doesn’t mean the elderly necessarily require less sleep. Nighttime arousals are more common in elderly persons, and thus it’s not uncommon for the elderly to suffer from frequent daytime sleepiness. Naturally, just as when we’re young, a lack of sleep can cause confusion.
Sleep apnea, a condition where it’s difficult for someone to go to and stay asleep (paired with a lack of deep sleep, often goes undiagnosed, especially in the elderly.
Typical sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Restless sleep (including tossing and turning)
- Night sweats
- Nighttime choking
- Daytime symptoms such as lack of concentration, headaches, moodiness, leg swelling plus anxiety and depression
Lack of oxygen to the brain
The lungs of the elderly and not as efficient in processing oxygen as those of their younger counterparts. A lack of oxygen leads to lightheadedness and confusion, and may require an oxygen treatment to alleviate the problem. A visit to the doctor with your elderly loved one’s confusion can help diagnose this properly..
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
TIA’s are also caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain for a short period of time.Â TIA’s are small episodes that show stroke-like symptoms, but ARE NOT strokes (TIA effects do not show up on CT/MRI cans). TIAs can last up to 24 hours, but are usually shorter. Currently, there’s no known way to prevent TIAs. If your aging loved one suffers the symptoms, it’s best to get them medical attention as soon as possible, as it may be an early sign that a larger stroke is on the horizon.
Typical TIA symptoms include:
- Short periods of intense confusion
- Difficulty moving
- Irrational behavior
Change in surroundings
A drastic change of environment, such as moving to a nursing home, can cause tremendous confusion for an elderly person. Even if such a move is necessary, keeping their surroundings the same will lead to a fuller and happier life.
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