Diagnosis of dementia

If you experience dementia symptoms such as forgetfulness, find it difficult to find the right words, or feel so distracted that daily tasks like making coffee are difficult, be aware that there may be a number of reasons for this. Understanding how dementia is diagnosed can help alleviate some of your concerns.

Due to your anxiety, you may want to keep track of how often you notice these memory and thinking problems, and ask a close family member or friend if they have noticed them and how often.

You may also be screened for possible dementia. Screening is not the same as a specific test, such as a blood test, in which a specific factor is evaluated and the results are final. Screening is a concise and effective way to assess whether there is enough concern to warrant further testing.

Lastly, you should contact your healthcare professional to schedule an appointment to better assess your cognition. Although you can ignore these symptoms and hope they go away, it is generally better to check in sooner rather than later to get the answers and treatment you need. Let's take a look at some general questions you may have about your visit.

RyanJLane / Getty Images

Dementia Screening and Your Healthcare Provider

There is a screening test called SAGE that is available online for people who can use it from the comfort of their home. You can take the test at home and see how you are doing, but keep in mind that the results need to be passed on to your healthcare provider for review.

It is usually best to start with your doctor. Some primary care physicians will perform this assessment on your own, while others will refer you to a memory and cognition specialist.

Some communities have memory loss clinics or neurology clinics that specialize in testing, diagnosing, and treating these problems, and these clinics can be a valuable resource. If this service is available in your area, be sure to call ahead to find out if a referral is required from your PCP or you can make an appointment directly at the clinic.

While you can of course go to the doctor alone, it is often very helpful to bring someone else so that several people can hear the doctor's words and can help you ask questions. Since going to the doctor can sometimes be stressful, especially when you're anxious, having someone else support you can be very rewarding.

Dementia test

Dementia is a general term for the process of mental decline. If your appointment with a doctor shows that you have multiple symptoms of dementia, the next step for the healthcare professional is to find out what is causing these symptoms.

There are several types of dementia, and more tests can help determine which type you have. This can help guide effective treatment and form appropriate expectations about how dementia may progress over time.

The tests your healthcare provider prescribes will depend on the other symptoms you have, in addition to changes in your cognitive abilities. The purpose of the tests is to find out more about the cause of your problems.

For example, sometimes tests can reveal possible treatable causes for your symptoms, such as low amounts of vitamin B12, which can then be added and can improve your mental functioning.

Several of the following tests and questions await you:

  • Dementia Screening – Your healthcare provider may use tests such as MMSE, Mini-Cog, SLUMS, or MoCA. These cognitive tests can provide a snapshot of your cognitive functioning.
  • Review of your physical symptoms: You should inform your doctor about all the symptoms you have, in addition to problems with memory and thought processes. This includes things like changes in balance or gait, coordination, activity level, and general health.
  • Medication Review: Bring your complete list of medications you are taking. This includes any over-the-counter supplements or natural products you are taking, as too many medications (or the wrong combination of medications) can cause symptoms that mimic dementia).
  • Blood tests: Your doctor may order blood tests that measure various areas, including thyroid function, signs of infection, and certain vitamin levels.
  • Visual examinations: An MRI, CT scan, or PET scan may be ordered to rule out other causes of cognitive problems.
  • Psychological screening. Your healthcare provider may also ask you questions about your emotional state, as depression and anxiety can affect cognitive function.

Diagnosis of dementia

Sometimes a doctor's diagnosis is known as a special type of dementia. However, other healthcare providers will simply drop the diagnosis of dementia instead of labeling it as a specific type, such as dementia with Alzheimer's bodies, dementia with Lewy bodies , vascular dementia, or frontotemporal dementia . This is because it can be difficult to determine which type is actually causing the symptoms.

Strategies for managing the diagnosis of dementia

In some cases, dementia symptoms can be caused by more than one medical condition, such as mixed dementia. Mixed dementia is diagnosed when two or more diseases are suspected or known to cause dementia, such as a combination of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia.

If your healthcare provider determines that you do not have dementia, you will likely experience significant relief. Understanding what exactly caused these memory loss symptoms for you can be very helpful in moving forward and making lifestyle and treatment decisions that can improve your symptoms.

Remember, strategies to reduce your risk of developing dementia often coincide with improving your overall health.

Why should it be diagnosed if dementia is not treatable?

Some people feel that they would rather not know if they have dementia if there is currently no cure. However, early diagnosis offers several benefits. Your symptoms may even be caused by a reversible disease that, with proper treatment, may improve. Most people would not want to pass up this opportunity.

While it is difficult to get a dementia diagnosis, it can also help explain why your memory or decisions have become more difficult lately. Some people report that they feel relieved after discovering the cause of these problems.

It is also helpful to be aware of your dementia so that you can seize the opportunity to make decisions about your future and communicate them to those around you. This is a gift for you and your loved ones, as it ensures that your choices and preferences are met, and it also prevents your family members from having to guess what you want.

What to do if you have dementia

For some people, the news of a dementia diagnosis is not much of a surprise. They may have suspected it on the way. But for many, this news is unpleasant.

You may have to spend some time on the mountain. The grief process often looks different to different people, but it can involve crying, recording your feelings of sadness and disbelief, or simply talking to a loved one. When it comes to a diagnosis, it's okay if you need time and support.

It is important to understand that there should be no shame or guilt for this disease. Participating in a support group through your local Alzheimer's association can be very helpful in understanding how to move forward as you adjust to life. Remember that it is not your fault and that life can go on despite your diagnosis.

Hope for a cure for dementia.

It is true that dementia is generally irreversible at this time. However, there are things you can do to help yourself. The food you eat , your level of mental activity, and the physical activity you choose to participate in affect your health, both physical and cognitive. Much research has been done on this lifestyle, and the findings have repeatedly shown that all of them can play a role in your cognitive functioning.

There are also several drugs approved for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Some of these medications help other types of dementia to some extent. Research generally shows that early treatment is better and can delay the progression of symptoms for a limited time.

Additionally, several people living with dementia report that quality of life is possible despite their diagnosis. It is often associated with social interaction with friends and opportunities for meaningful activities.

Misdiagnosis and second opinion

One of the most common reactions to a difficult situation is denial. It is not unusual to say, "I can't believe this is happening." Or: 'I don't think this is correct. It must be something else. "While this question may be part of the grieving process over this diagnosis, it may also have its merits.

Getting a second opinion is not a bad idea. Sometimes there have been misdiagnoses of dementia when, in fact, the mental problems were caused by something else that could be cured and at least partially reversed.

There are many possible causes of forgetfulness, and some of them are associated with conditions such as stress, fatigue, or depression. Solving them correctly can lead to a significant improvement in cognitive functions.

If a second opinion gives you peace of mind, it's worth it, even if it doesn't change the diagnosis.

Questions to ask after being diagnosed with dementia

Feel free to ask your doctor any questions about dementia and its diagnosis. These 12 questions are a good place to start, but it's okay to start adjusting to multiple waves of questions. Take the time to write them down as you think about them so that you can refer to them the next time you visit a doctor.

Related Articles