Can Alzheimer's be triggered by a traumatic experience?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Can Alzheimer's be triggered by a traumatic experience?

Expert Answer

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

Physical trauma such as infections, injury, drug-reactions or interactions; dehydration and malnutrition, infections, or even anesthesia can bring on acute and temporary dementia, known as "delirium." If a person is already disposed to dementia, a single traumatic experience can trigger a sharp mental decline and onset of Alzheimer's or a related dementia. Emotional trauma, such as the death of a spouse, sibling, or child, has also been known to have caused acute onset of Alzheimer's and other dementia; however most likely the person was already prone to the disease.

Any time you have a sudden onset of any of these symptoms, it's important to be proactive. The person should have a thorough physical exam to eliminate possible reversible conditions of delirium.