Diagnosing Dementia: What Seniors and their Caregivers Can Expect

By June 25, 2014Dementia

Physicians looking to diagnose the presence of dementia are forced to use a variety of tools. After all, dementia isn’t exactly an easy disease to detect. Despite the challenge, physicians will initially try to rule out co-occurring conditions that mimic dementia.

Copycat Conditions among Seniors
Doctors will check to see if abnormal conditions or behaviors are causing symptoms of dementia. They must rule out:

  • Depression
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

For seniors, it’s always best to obtain an early diagnosis of dementia. Medical professionals are able to quickly treat symptoms and, if they’re lucky, keep the progression of dementia at bay.

The Road Leading to Diagnosis
Seniors and their adult children can expect the following during the diagnosis phase of dementia:

  • Patient History: Doctors often begin their examinations by collecting a detailed medical and family history.
  • Physical examination: Doctors perform a physical exam, looking for other (more treatable) diseases or signs of stroke.
  • Neurological Evaluations: Seniors will be checked for brain performance, looking specifically at balance, sensory function, reflexes, and other functions.
  • Cognitive and Neuropsychological Tests: Activities and tasks that challenge mental function are popular diagnosing tools. The tests measure memory, language skills, math skills, and other abilities.
  • Brain Scans: Detailed images of the brain help doctors to locate evidence of strokes, tumors, or other indicating factors known to cause dementia.
  • Laboratory Tests: A large number of lab tests can be used in the quest to diagnose dementia or rule out the conditions known to contribute to dementia symptoms. While hundreds of tests can prove helpful, only a core group has shown success during the diagnosis phase. Some of those tests include: complete blood count, blood glucose test, urinalysis, drug and alcohol screenings, cerebrospinal fluid analysis (looking for infections that affect the brain), and analysis of thyroid and thyroid-stimulating hormone levels.
  • Psychiatric Evaluation: Speaking with an expert in the field will help to determine whether psychiatric disorders are causing symptoms of dementia.

When receiving in-home eldercare, senior caregivers must remain alert for the unique symptoms associated with dementia.

Image Credit – http://www.alzinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/diagnose.jpg

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