A dementia diagnosis can only be made by looking at the person‟s pattern of symptoms. A doctor decides if the pattern is due to a dementing illness or to something else. Certain tests can help exclude other conditions or pinpoint areas in the brain affected by the dementia.
· A complete medical history
· Basic medical tests
· Neuropsychological tests
· Brain scans
Alzheimer’s Disease: FYI: A doctor can say someone has „probable‟ Alzheimer’s disease. A definitive diagnosis can only be made with a brain autopsy (later) to confirm the presence of the characteristic plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's disease, or not.
In this regard, perhaps one could argue that the term Alzeheimer’s Disease is overused. But most permanent dementias present with similar symptoms and losses regardless of the origin.
In life, sometimes things are the scariest just because we don’t understand. Once educated on what to expect, all gets easier. With dementia, the same applies. The disease process may last 3 to 20 years. In the early stages, people can do many, many things. Unfortunately, doctors and families often end up “writing people off” too early because they assume that a dementia diagnosis means that it’s all over for that person. Not so. People with mild to moderate dementia can function fairly well if they receive great structure, patience, and encouragement. Don’t get mad. It’s not their fault.
In the early stages of dementia, people can contribute to their own future care (e.g., address financial matters, decide about what will happen in the later stages, and update a will). It‟s also the time to make peace, mend fences, share memories, spend time, reminisce, and do those things that one has always wanted to do. People can be helped to make the most of life. Here are some strategies for caregiver success as things move forward:
Memory helpers: get the person to write down everything For examples, conversation starters, names, lists of tasks, appointments, questions for grandchildren, the steps to do simple; everyday activities (e.g. how to brush your teeth … 1, 2, 3; how to make coffee … 1, 2, 3), all ideas, memories … in a memory notebook.