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DIAGNOSING DEMENTIA

 

Importance Of A Diagnosis.  It is important to have a professional diagnosis of dementia for the following reasons:

-To eliminate and/or treat other medical problems–for example, a brain tumor, chemical     imbalance, thyroid issues, etc.  Even a urinary tract infection or dehydration in older    people can present similar cognitive symptoms.

-To enable the patient to make plans for the future including legal and financial matters     and care options.

-To benefit from available treatments.

-To allow the patient to develop a support team of family and health care professionals.

-To enable the person to live the best quality of life possible while they are able to do so

 

Obtaining A Diagnosis:   A diagnosis of dementia must be made by  medical professionals.  The evaluations should include:

 

-A physical exam.  This will include questions regarding diet, lifestyle, exercise, and use of alcohol or tobacco.  It should include a check of your blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.  The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs and perform other procedures as needed.  Blood and urine samples will be collected for testing.   A medical history will be done, including a review of your current and past illnesses and questions regarding the health of family members and whether they may have had dementia.

 

-Mental status tests. During a mental status exam, a health professional asks a patient a series of questions designed to test a range of everyday mental skills.  The outcome is compared to a scale which rates scores from normal functioning, to mild, moderate, or severe dementia.

 

-A neurological exam.  The doctor will evaluate the patient for problems that might include brain disorders other than Alzheimer’s, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, or fluid accumulation on the brain, or other conditions that affect memory.  The doctor will check your eye movement, speech, coordination, muscle tone and strength, and physical sensations.

 

-Brain imaging.  A standard assessment for dementia often includes brain imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or computed tomography (CT).  These tests can also rule out other problems, such a brain tumor, etc.