How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimers disease.
To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem.
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.
People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimers or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
In addition, an early diagnosis provides people with more opportunities to participate in clinical trials or other research studies testing possible new treatments for Alzheimers.
What Causes Alzheimers Disease
In recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimers and the momentum continues to grow. Still, scientists dont yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimers, a genetic mutation may be the cause. Late-onset Alzheimers arises from a complex series of brain changes that may occur over decades. The causes probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimers may differ from person to person.
Senior Living Options For Seniors With Dementia
The initial stages of dementia are not usually debilitating, and it can be relatively easy to care for yourself at home and bring in a caregiver when you need more help. However, dementia eventually progresses into more serious symptoms like inability to eat and walk, and assisted living may then be a better option to help you enjoy life with Alzheimers disease and other dementias.
Assisted living facilities that specifically provide care for those with dementia are called memory care centers. Memory care facilities provide medical care for people with dementia and other services including:
- Daily care in areas such as grooming, bathing, dressing, and eating
- Healthy meals, often designed specifically to be dementia-friendly, including fruits and vegetables recommended by top researchers to help fight cognitive decline
- Access to a wide variety of social activities, recreational activities, and specially designed areas to help people suffering from memory loss continue to engage in their lifelong passions like gardening, church, visiting local attractions, art, and more
- Housekeeping services
- 24-hour monitoring and a secured building to prevent wandering and other dangers
If youre ready to learn more about assisted living options for those living with a diagnosis of dementia, please reach out for information from our senior care experts here.
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Is Alzheimers A Terminal Illness
This question has a fair amount of subtlety. I have treated it at greater length HERE. But, suffice it to say that there are broad and narrow conceptions for what a âterminal illnessâ is.
On the broad conception, a terminal illness is merely one that reduces your life expectancy and that you will you will have at the time of your death. Alzheimerâs surely fits this general description.
On the narrow definition, a terminal illness is one that you are expected to die from very soon â maybe within twelve or twenty-four months. A person recently diagnosed with mild-cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimerâs may have eight to ten years to live. So, on this narrow definition, âAlzheimerâsâ â by itself â may not be a terminal illness. However, we could say that late-stage Alzheimerâs could plausibly be construed as a terminal illness. Because, by the time a person enters Alzheimerâs advanced, end, or late stage, it may well be that their life expectancy has been reduced to one or two years.
For a more in-depth discussion of this issue, click HERE.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia
Dementia is set of signs and symptoms which vary greatly from case-to-case but generally include the following categories:
- Cognitive symptoms: these include a deterioration in memory, reasoning skills, identity confusion, difficulty performing everyday tasks, language, coordination, planning and communication.
- Psychological symptoms: Hallucination, agitation, depression, sleep disorder, delusions.
- Behavioural symptoms: Mood swings, anxiety, repetitive behaviour, nervous ticks, changes in sleep pattern or appetite, irritability, a quick temper, aggression.
- Physical symptoms: muscular movements, weakness or weight loss often as a result of aforementioned changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
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What Else Are The Experts Saying
The recent research shows that the mortality rate for dementia, which was the second leading cause of death for the previous four years, has more than doubled since 2010. This has led to urgent calls for increased research and advances in treatments. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These figures once again call attention to the uncomfortable reality that currently, no-one survives a diagnosis of dementia. Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing, it’s caused by diseases that can be fought through research, and we must bring all our efforts to bear on what is now our greatest medical challenge.”
Martina Kane, of the Alzheimer’s Society, also highlighted the need for increased services.
“It is essential that people have access to the right support and services to help them live well with dementia and that research into better care, treatments and eventually a cure remain high on the agenda.”
For more information about the signs and symptoms of dementia, visit our fact page. If you are concerned about dementia, visit your GP.
Vascular Dementia Is Really Horrible It Can Happen Very Fast And You Need To Be Ready
I posted some questions about my elderly father who developed vascular dementia. About 2 months ago, he was hospitalized after a fall and confusion. A couple weeks ago, he was hospitalized again.
He would have periods where he was completely lucid, and outraged that he had been put in a rehab facility. He would demand to be allowed to go home with his live-in girlfriend . My sister as POA was conflicted about what to do. The doctors said the condition was going to get worse, and they recommended full-time nursing.
We resisted his demands and put him into rehab and then full-time nursing.
Now he is dying from the condition, unable to swallow, breathe properly, etc. –he is completely confused and out-of-it. There are no more periods of lucidity/awareness.
It took two months to go from independence to dying. Had we let him go home, the girlfriend would have robbed him blind , and left him in a dirty bedroom to die.
Vascular Dementia is really horrible, and it isn’t like Alzheimer’s –it happens fast, and the patient has sudden losses of function and competence.
So I’ll leave this here for anyone else who has doubts or questions about this condition.
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The Start Of The Dying Process
As someones condition worsens and they get to within a few days or hours of dying, further changes are common. The person will often:
- deteriorate more quickly than before
- lose consciousness
- develop an irregular breathing pattern
- have cold hands and feet.
These changes are part of the dying process. Healthcare professionals can explain these changes so you understand what is happening. The person is often unaware of what is happening, and they should not be in pain or distress.
Medication can be used to treat the persons symptoms. If the person cant swallow, there are other ways of providing this, such as medication patches on the skin, small injections or syringe drivers . Speak to a GP or another health professional about this.
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Small Vessel Disease And Vascular Cognitive Impairment
Vascular dementia can also be caused by small vessel disease. This is when the small blood vessels deep within your brain become narrow and clogged up. The damage stops blood from getting to parts of your brain. The damage can build up over time and may cause signs of vascular cognitive impairment. This can eventually lead to vascular dementia.
Many of the things that increase your risk of small vessel disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, also increase your risk of stroke.
You can read more about how to reduce your risk of stroke and small vessel disease.
Active Management Of Alzheimers Dementia
- Appropriate use of available treatment options.
- Effective management of coexisting conditions.
- Providing family caregivers with effective training in managing the day-to-day life of the care recipient.
- Coordination of care among physicians, other health care professionals and lay caregivers.
- Participation in activities that are meaningful to the individual with dementia and bring purpose to his or her life.
- Having opportunities to connect with others living with dementia support groups and supportive services are examples of such opportunities.
- Becoming educated about the disease.
- Planning for the future.
To learn more about Alzheimers disease, as well as practical information for living with Alzheimers and being a caregiver, visit alz.org.
How Can We Diagnose Dementia
Early detection of the disease is crucial as it can be treated in some cases and progression of the disease can be slowed or even prevented. Dementia can be diagnosed based on the following:
This includes physical examinations, testing blood or other fluid levels, assessments about the beginning of the symptom development, family history and the patients past and current medication regime.
Cognitive and Neuropsychological:
To assess the memory, cognitive functions and other mental abilities to check the functioning of the brain, the doctor can request brain scans using Computed Tomography , Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Positron Emission Tomography technologies to check brain activity.
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Why Are More People Dying Of Dementia
Its likely due to a combination of factors, says David A. Merrill, MD, PhD, a neurologist and geriatric psychiatrist at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.
Theres a silver tsunami, he says. People are living longer and into old age, and we know that age is the single largest non-modifiable risk factor for dementia.
Plus, there is also more of an awareness of the disease among the medical community and people as a whole, Dr. Merrill says, even though the way that dementia is diagnosed hasnt changed. It may be that dementia is being looked for more now than in the past, he says, leading to an uptick in numbers.
Dying From Dementia Four Dangerous Signs You Shouldnt Miss
The realization that your loved one is dying from dementia is difficult to digest. People are clueless, and they cant wrap their heads around this crude reality. These are undoubtedly devastating moments, but there is no point lamenting over it forever.
Start by studying the true nature of dementia so you can spot the symptoms easily. Dementia is aprogressive brain disease characterized by degeneration of cells that result inthe gradual onset of disabilities. Theearly signs of dementia are vague and arent immediately visible. Also, thereis no timeline to tell us how the effectsof dementia overtake patients.
It varies from one patient to another according to the type of dementia they have and their age. People who suffer from Alzheimers experience difficulty retaining new information such as names, recent events or conversations. These patients also show signs of depression.
With the progression of the disease, they become disoriented, confused and unable to communicate effectively. Similarly, the ones suffering from Lewy body dementia and Frontotemporal dementia reveal a different symptom pattern.
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How To Determine Your Risk
Despite lots of research, scientists still do not know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s Disease. However, there are a number of risk factors for Alzheimer’s that everyone should be aware of:
- Age: Most people are diagnosed with the condition after the age of 60, however, it can occur in younger people as well. According to the CDC, the number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. “The longer we live, the more likely we are to come down with the symptoms,” explains Dr. Fredericks.
- Gender: Almost two-thirds of those suffering from Alzheimer’s are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Race: The AA also points out that race comes into play. Older African Americans are twice as likely to have it as older Caucasians, while Hispanics are one-and-a-half times more likely to have it.
- Family History: If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s researchers believe that it may increase your chances of developing it.
- Brain Changes: According to researchers, changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
- High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol: Scientists believe that heart disease and stroke risk factors may also predict Alzheimer’s. These include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Other possible risk factors may include education, diet, and environment. However, more research is needed to establish a conclusive connection.
What Are The Symptoms Of Vascular Dementia
The term dementia describes a set of symptoms, including memory loss. Symptoms can develop suddenly or gradually.
Your early symptoms will depend on which part of your brain has been affected. This means different people can experience different symptoms.
Vascular dementia can affect people of all ages, although it’s often associated with growing older. If you’re under 65 years old, it’s known as ‘young onset’ or ‘early onset’ vascular dementia.
Early signs of vascular dementia include:
- concentration problems, for example, losing interest in whats happening around you
- mood and personality changes, such as irritability or feeling low
- feeling confused
- difficulty with daily activities, such as paying with money
- difficulty with language, for example, becoming less fluent.
Vascular dementia is progressive which means it will probably get worse over time. Research has shown that improving your lifestyle can slow down progression, so that you’re able to continue to live an active life, for as long as possible.
In the later stages, early signs will worsen. You may also experience symptoms such as:
- becoming increasingly confused and disorientated
- memory loss and difficulty concentrating
- difficulty remembering words or communicating
- difficulty with balance or falling frequently
- depression and personality changes
- loss of bladder control.
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Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early stages the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be very subtle. However, it often begins with lapses in memory and difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects.
Other symptoms may include:
- Persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events
- Vagueness in everyday conversation
- Apparent loss of enthusiasm for previously enjoyed activities
- Taking longer to do routine tasks
- Forgetting well-known people or places
- Inability to process questions and instructions
- Deterioration of social skills
- Emotional unpredictability
Symptoms vary and the disease progresses at a different pace according to the individual and the areas of the brain affected. A person’s abilities may fluctuate from day to day, or even within the one day, becoming worse in times of stress, fatigue or ill-health.
Are There Any Treatments For Dementia
At this time there is no treatment for dementia. There is only medical care that can help manage symptoms and support people through their gradual decline.
The options for proper medical care with the diagnosis often include specialty caregivers, individual and family support groups, healthy diet and exercise, and frequent check-ins with your doctor.
Depending on which stage of dementia you or your loved one is in, the level of care required will vary. Someone in the earlier stages might need little to no care if symptoms are mild and not affecting daily life.
On the other hand, someone in the final stages of dementia will most certainly require 24/7 caregiving and constant supervision. If they dont have the proper care they need to avoid a risk factor such as choking or falling, it could lead to death.
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What Should I Take Away From This Research
Smoking is the main cause of avoidable death, through heart disease, strokes and lung cancer. It is a risk factor for lung disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and poor immune function, and also adversely affects fertility and maternal health. There are therefore many general health reasons for not smoking.
Some of the known effects of smoking are known causes of dementia, and there is evidence that a current smoker is more likely to develop dementia. Some researchers estimate that 14% of dementia cases worldwide may be attributable to smoking.
However, on a positive note, stopping smoking reduces this risk, so it is never too late to adopt healthier lifestyle choices. It is also likely to help if second-hand smoke is avoided.
Understanding dementia risk factors
Use the Alzheimer’s Society interactive tool to understand how different factors can affect your risk of dementia. Scroll to the third screen to see the figures for smoking.
What Is The Risk Of Vascular Dementia After Stroke
Vascular dementia could be caused by a stroke or other conditions that impact the supply of blood in the brain, such as poor circulation.
A persons risk of post-stroke dementia increases with the number of strokes they experience. For example, a large study of over 5,000 stroke survivors found that the rate of vascular dementia was around 9% in those who had only suffered one stroke. In those who had experienced more than one stroke, however, the rate increased to 25%. The risk of vascular dementia also increases with age.
Because a stroke is a vascular disease that impacts the arteries, the same factors that increase the risk of stroke also increase the risk of vascular dementia. This means that conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol all increase the risk of vascular dementia.
Not all strokes cause vascular dementia, though. Every stroke is different and every person experiences different effects following a stroke. For example, a massive stroke may cause paralysis while very mild strokes may not cause any noticeable secondary effects at all.
However, just because a person does not experience many effects after a stroke does not mean they wont develop vascular dementia. The best way to reduce the risk of vascular dementia is to improve the health of your arteries and blood flow by managing any vascular diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.
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