Delirium vs Dementia

When I was ten years old, my 40-year-old mother suffered a massive stroke. She lived to age 76, but not without significant challenges. My once soft-spoken, easy-going mother would suddenly become belligerent and combative with my father. After we had been through this several times, we came to understand that it was the hallmark of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and knew we had to get her to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, many people dealing with this issue think it is the hallmark of early dementia in elders, or progression of dementia in someone diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. In fact, it is delirium, not dementia.

Delirium, also known as acute confusion, is a sudden change in mental functioning and behavior. It can present as agitation, disorientation and sometimes even hallucinations. There can be many causes for these changes. Before deciding that someone is experiencing signs and symptoms of dementia, seek medical advice to rule out a treatable physical condition. A course of antibiotics brought the mother we all knew back to us.

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