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5 of the Most Common Illnesses Misdiagnosed in Older Adults

Many medical conditions can accelerate changes in a person’s body as he or she ages, making it more difficult for doctors to distinguish between an actual illness and the process of getting older. The staff at Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of home care in Toronto, discusses some of the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses among seniors.

1. Delirium 

Often this illness is misdiagnosed as dementia. When the mental state of a senior is altered, he or she can become confused and experience a decrease in cognitive abilities, which many individuals and medical professionals associate with dementia. However, if your loved one has alcoholism, hormonal disorders, or certain health infections, his or her mental state may be altered, leading to delirium. Speak to your loved one’s doctor about medications that could be causing delirium, and make sure your loved one follows a healthy diet, avoids alcohol, and stays physically fit.

2. Migraines 

Sometimes seniors are diagnosed with a migraine, accompanied by an aura, but are actually experiencing a stroke. This misdiagnosis occurs due to similar symptoms associated with migraines and strokes, such as seeing spots or light flashes and feeling a tingling sensation that travels up a limb. To prevent this misdiagnosis, your loved one should stop smoking, reduce his or her blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and have further testing done.

3. Essential Tremors 

These tremors are common among seniors, but are often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. Essential tremors cause shakiness like Parkinson’s, but the tremors affect both sides of the body at the same time, unlike Parkinson’s. To prevent your loved one from being misdiagnosed, make sure his or her potassium levels are low. Find out if your family has a history of this condition and let your loved one’s doctors and nurses know. If your loved one is being treated with haloperidol and chlorpromazine, these medications can cause essential tremors. Ask his or her doctor for alternative treatment options.

4. Urinary Tract Infections 

Some noted signs of Alzheimer’s disease might be present in seniors with urinary tract infections (UTIs). A UTI can exacerbate a variety of symptoms, including confusion and irritability, which may lead to a misdiagnosis. If your loved one has a UTI, he or she may experience withdrawal and agitation, which are similar symptoms to the early stages of Alzheimer’s. To prevent UTIs, your loved one should drink plenty of water and follow a healthy diet.

5. Fibromyalgia 

This condition is often mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis in seniors. The misdiagnosis occurs because both conditions affect the same joints in a similar way, causing pain, aches, and stiffness. However, if your loved one has fibromyalgia, he or she will not experience the type of swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis. To prevent fibromyalgia, your loved one can load up on vitamin D, avoid additives, reduce caffeine intake, and exercise regularly.

We are a leading provider of respite and live-in care Toronto families rely on, and our caregivers can provide transportation to medical appointments, assist with exercise, prepare healthy meals, and help with a wide variety of everyday tasks. For more information on our in-home care services, call (416) 488-8777 today.