Could ADD be mistaken for Alzheimer's?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 09, 2016
Curiousfinder asked...

My husband has ADD...can that be confused with Alzheimer's?

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

This is a difficult question to answer not knowing how long the Attention Deficiency Disorder (ADD) has been diagnosed and if there may be an overlap between this and Alzheimer's disease (AD). The age of your husband plays a role in this answer as do his medical and family histories. I think, since you asked this question, you already have some suspicions that need clarification. As you make plans for future care, you both deserve an approprate diagnosis.

Perhaps the major difference between AD and ADD is the myriad other symptoms of AD that manifest as time elapses. Generally the most obvious symptoms of ADD are an inability to control emotions or impulses as well as a decreasing ability to follow through on a chore or to pay attention to a task. Now while some of these manifestations may be present with Alzheimer's, the significant difference is in the recognition of changes since they are slow, insidious, continually downhill, and ongoing with AD. There are many more problematic areas concerned with the person's slow loss of abilities to dress, bathe, dine, comprehend, speak intelligibly, and recognize toileting needs to name a few. These changes may be so insidious in the progression of Alzheimer's that they are not immediately noted until an intervention is required.

If your family member has been thoroughly tested for the various neurological diseases, your neurologist should be able to offer a fair assessment of the underlying cause of memory-impairment. It is important to have a good neurological workup done and an accompanying care plan developed, including meds that may be valuable in slowing the progress if it is Alzheimer's or a related disorder and in controlling the emotional turmoil if it is ADD.

Perhaps of greatest importance, in obtaining the correct diagnosis, is your family's understanding of why your mother behaves as she does. If ADD is at the root of her behavior, medications that control anxiety or depression may be helpful. If it is AD that is contributing to the multiple changes in her skills and ADL (Activities of Daily Living) then medications designed specifically for AD patients may be quite helpful in managing her care.

I wish you luck in obtaining appropriate diagnostic information. Please take care of YOU!