If you think that a loved one might be developing dementia, then you’ll want to get a professional dementia diagnosis so that you can get them the professional care that they need. However, getting an accurate dementia diagnosis can be a lot more challenging than you might think.
Getting an Accurate Dementia Diagnosis
There are a lot of different signs that somebody might be developing dementia, but these signs could also simply be a function of aging or of other disorders. Some of these signs include short-term memory loss, confusion, difficulty completing certain tasks, repetition of tasks, apathy and changes in mood and behaviors.
A person who is experiencing one of these symptoms may not actually have dementia. Because of this, a professional dementia diagnosis requires a minimum of two core mental function impairments that interfere with the resident’s regular day-to-day lives. These mental functions include memory, visual perception, the ability to focus, the ability to problem-solve, the ability to reason and language skills.
A doctor will review the resident’s medical history and symptoms in addition to asking the resident’s family detailed questions about those symptoms. The doctor will generally do a basic physical examination before performing a variety of different tests.
The following are some of the tests commonly used to aid in the official diagnosis of dementia:
- Cognitive Function Tests — The doctor will perform both cognitive and neuropsychological tests to evaluate the resident’s ability to think and process information. Tests will measure the resident’s judgment, memory, language skills, reasoning, orientation and attention.
- Neurological Evaluation — The doctor will evaluate the resident’s language, memory, attention, visual perception, balance, reflexes, senses, movement, problem-solving and more.
- Brain Scans — The doctor may recommend several brain scans, including a CT (Computerized Tomography) or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan. CT and MRI scans will help identify signs of stroke, bleeding, tumors or hydrocephalus in the resident. PET scans will record the resident’s brain activity patterns as well as identify whether the amyloid protein is present in the brain. The presence of the amyloid protein is often an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Lab Tests — The doctor may also take a few simple blood tests. Blood tests can help identify certain physical problems the resident might have that could be affecting their brain function, such as an underactive thyroid gland or a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
A doctor will be able to make a more accurate dementia diagnosis after performing these tests. Individuals showing signs of dementia may want to see a mental health professional to determine whether any mental health conditions are contributing to their symptoms. For information about getting professional care for a loved one showing signs of or living with dementia, contact us at Marjorie House today.