Less than 20 percent of seniors in the United States receive regular cognitive assessments, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. However, every 65 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. If you have a loved one showing signs of cognitive decline, this doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has Alzheimer’s. But it can be helpful to have a better understanding of how a diagnosis is made.
A Review of Medical History and Symptoms
The process of determining if someone has Alzheimer’s typically begins with a discussion of symptoms, a physical examination, and a review of the individual’s medical history. This initial process may also include questions about family history of dementia-related issues along with an assessment of:
• Basic cognitive or memory-related skills
• Behavior and general personality characteristics
• Overall health and wellbeing
There are many reasons seniors might need assistance at home. Some may require regular mental stimulation due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, while others might only need part-time assistance with exercise and basic household tasks. Home Care Assistance is a leading Fort Worth home care provider. Families rely on our expertly trained caregivers to help their senior loved ones maintain a high quality of life.
Because the early signs that suggest your loved one may have Alzheimer’s can be vague or related to other issues including age-related cognitive changes, several tests may be performed. The more common ones include:
• Blood tests
• Brain-imaging tests
• Memory-related tests
Ruling Out Other Possible Health Conditions
According to WebMD and the Alzheimer’s Association, there are many conditions that can be mistaken as being signs of Alzheimer’s disease. For this reason, it’s also common for tests to be done to rule out other possible health issues that could be entirely treatable or reversible. Some of these include:
• Vitamin deficiencies
• Side effects related to certain medications
• Thyroid conditions
• Normal pressure hydrocephalus
• Urinary tract infections
• Lyme disease
• A brain tumor
If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of at-home care families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
A More Detailed Memory Assessment
If there’s no evidence of other health-related issues, your loved one may be advised to have more advanced or detailed memory assessments to determine if Alzheimer’s is the likely source of the symptoms. This process often involves a series of questions or specially designed puzzles or activities that test memory-related processes such as:
• Short-term memory retention
• Abstract thinking
• Language usage
As part of an effort to make a positive diagnosis, your loved one may be referred to a neuropsychologist, which is a type of doctor that specializes in both brain and mental health conditions. The purpose of taking this step is to look for signs of depression or anxiety that could be affecting cognitive abilities.
Family Member/Friend Interviews
In some cases, the doctors evaluating your loved one may ask to interview other family members and friends. The reason for taking this step is to identify possible behavioral patterns that suggest memory impairment is affecting daily functioning. This information may also be used to make treatment and care recommendations if a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made.
Making an Official Diagnosis
As for how a final determination is made, it’s often a judgment call based on the results of all tests and assessments that were performed and whether or not other conditions were ruled out. The goal with diagnosing Alzheimer’s is to make this determination as early as possible. To achieve this goal, scientists and researchers are working to identify likely disease markers and come up with more accurate tests to detect these markers
The days, weeks, and months following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be challenging for both seniors and their families. However, these challenges can be made less stressful with the help of caregivers trained in professional Alzheimer’s care. Fort Worth Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one enjoy the golden years while simultaneously managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Reach out to one of our qualified Care Managers today at (817) 720-5556 to learn more and schedule a free in-home consultation.