Why Early Detection Can Be Difficult
Alzheimers disease usually is not diagnosed in the early stages, even in people who visit their primary care doctors with memory complaints.
- People and their families generally underreport the symptoms.
- They may confuse them with normal signs of aging.
- The symptoms may emerge so gradually that the person affected doesnt recognize them.
- The person may be aware of some symptoms but go to great lengths to conceal them.
Recognizing symptoms early is crucial because medication to control symptoms is most effective in the early stages of the disease and early diagnosis allows the individual and his or her family members to plan for the future. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact a physician.
What To Do If You Have Dementia
Receiving the news of a dementia diagnosis isn’t a great surprise for some people. They may have been suspecting it along the way. But, for many, this news is difficult.
You will likely need to spend some time grieving. The process of grieving often looks different for different people, but it may involve crying, writing out your feelings of sadness and disbelief, or just talking with a loved one. It’s normal to need some time and support as you cope with a diagnosis.
It’s important to understand that there should not be any shame or blame for this disease. Getting involved with a support group through your local Alzheimer’s Association can be very helpful in understanding how to move forward as you adjust to life. Remember that you are not at fault, and that life can go on despite your diagnosis.
How Is Dementia Diagnosed
To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying, potentially treatable, condition that may relate to cognitive difficulties. A physical exam to measure blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as laboratory tests of blood and other fluids to check levels of various chemicals, hormones, and vitamins, can help uncover or rule out possible causes of symptoms.
A review of a persons medical and family history can provide important clues about risk for dementia. Typical questions might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.
The following procedures also may be used to diagnose dementia:
Early detection of symptoms is important, as some causes can be treated. However, in many cases, the cause of dementia is unknown and cannot be treated. Still, obtaining an early diagnosis can help with managing the condition and planning ahead.
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Sage Test To Detect Alzheimers And Dementia
If you’re concerned about your memory , you might want to take the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam . The test was developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as a tool to detect early signs of cognitive impairments.It can accurately identify early symptoms of Alzheimers and dementia.
Preparing For A Doctor’s Visit
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How To Cope With Senior Memory Loss
It is difficult for most seniors to accept gradual memory loss. There will likely be anger and denial, and these emotions are entirely normal. To deal with the negative emotions, seniors need a sense of purpose, they need to be reassured that they still matter.
Either on their own or with a caregiver, there are a number of activities that may help seniors ease the pain of memory loss:
Types Of Lewy Body Dementia
It’s important to know which type of LBD a person has, both to tailor treatment to particular symptoms and to understand how the disease will likely progress. Clinicians and researchers use the “one-year rule” to help make a diagnosis. If cognitive symptoms appear at the same time as or at least a year before movement problems, the diagnosis is dementia with Lewy bodies. If cognitive problems develop more than a year after the onset of movement problems, the diagnosis is Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Regardless of the initial symptoms, over time, people with either type of LBD often develop similar symptoms, due to the presence of Lewy bodies in the brain. But there are some differences. For example, dementia with Lewy bodies may progress more quickly than Parkinson’s disease dementia.
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What Is The Sage Test
SAGE is a self-administered test available online. It has been scientifically evaluated in comparison with other common dementia tests and has been found to be an accurate tool to identify signs of memory and thinking impairment. While not meant to replace a clinical assessment, the SAGE test can be helpful in identifying cognitive losses earlier, when treatment may be most effective.
The SAGE test contains a series of questions that measure cognitive functioning. There are actually four different tests to choose from, and they are all interchangeable. If you took all four , you should score essentially the same on each test.The different options are available to reduce the chances of inaccurate scoring that can result from re-taking the same test too frequently.
Diagnosing Lewy Body Dementia: For Professionals
Lewy body dementia can be difficult to diagnose. Talking to both patients and caregivers helps doctors make a diagnosis. It is important to ask the patient and their care partners about any symptoms involving thinking, movement, sleep, behavior, or mood. Certain medications can worsen LBD symptoms be aware of all current medications and supplements the patient is taking.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is often hard to diagnose because its early symptoms may resemble those of Alzheimer’s disease or a psychiatric illness. As a result, it is often misdiagnosed or missed altogether. As additional symptoms appear, making an accurate diagnosis may become easier.
The good news is that doctors are increasingly able to diagnose LBD earlier and more accurately, as researchers identify which symptoms and biomarkers help distinguish it from similar disorders.
Visiting a family doctor is often the first step for people who are experiencing changes in thinking, movement, or behavior. If a persons primary doctor is not familiar with LBD, they may have patients seek second opinions from specialists, like a geriatric psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, or a geriatrician to help diagnose LBD. If a specialist cannot be found in your community, ask the neurology department at a nearby medical school for a referral. Neurologists generally have the expertise needed to diagnose LBD.
Difficult as it is, getting an accurate diagnosis of LBD early on is important so that a person:
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What Is Mixed Dementia
It is common for people with dementia to have more than one form of dementia. For example, many people with dementia have both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
Researchers who have conducted autopsy studies have looked at the brains of people who had dementia, and have suggested that most people age 80 and older probably have mixed dementia caused by a combination of brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease,vascular disease-related processes, or another condition that involves the loss of nerve cell function or structure and nerve cell death .
Scientists are investigating how the underlying disease processes in mixed dementia start and influence each other. Further knowledge gains in this area will help researchers better understand these conditions and develop more personalized prevention and treatment strategies.
Other conditions that cause dementia-like symptoms can be halted or even reversed with treatment. For example, normal pressure hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, often resolves with treatment.
Researchers have also identified many other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms. These conditions include:
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Signs and symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss.
The symptoms of dementia can vary and may include:
- Experiencing memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion
- Difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and writing
- Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Trouble handling money responsibly and paying bills
- Repeating questions
- Not caring about other peoples feelings
- Losing balance and problems with movement
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can also develop dementia as they age, and recognizing their symptoms can be particularly difficult. Its important to consider a persons current abilities and to monitor for changes over time that could signal dementia.
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How Accurate Is The Mmse
Studies have shown that the MMSE is better at ruling out dementia than telling someone whether they have it. Very rarely will the MMSE tell someone who does not have dementia that they do have the disease . It is more common for someone who does have dementia to achieve a score that would indicate they dont have the disease. This happens more than 20 percent of the time, because people who are highly educated or only in the early stages of the disease can still score above 24 even if Alzheimers is present in the brain. Again, the MMSE should not be used alone as a tool for diagnosing dementia.
How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed And Evaluated
No single test can determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease. A diagnosis is made by determining the presence of certain symptoms and ruling out other causes of dementia. This involves a careful medical evaluation, including a thorough medical history, mental status testing, a physical and neurological exam, blood tests and brain imaging exams, including:
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Early Warning Signs And Diagnosis
Alzheimers Disease can be caught in the early stageswhen the best treatments are availableby watching for telltale warning signs. If you recognize the warning signs in yourself or a loved one, make an appointment to see your physician right away. Brain imaging technology can diagnose Alzheimers early, improving the opportunities for symptom management.
At What Age Can You Test Someone For The Signs Of Dementia
There is no one particular age that someone must meet before they can be assessed for signs of dementia, although dementia is more common in people over 65. Early-onset dementia can begin in people who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Diagnosing dementia in its early stages is important as early treatment can slow the progression of symptoms and help to maintain mental functions.
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Take The Sage Test At Home
Anyone can take the SAGE test anytime. Its free and you can get it here on the Ohio State University website.
Print the test and take it with a pen or pencil. Theres no time limit, but most people finish in about 15 minutes.
Sample questions from the test:
- How many nickels are in 60 cents?
- You are buying $13.45 of groceries. How much change would you receive back from a $20 bill?
- Write down the names of 12 different animals.
- Draw a large face of a clock and place in the numbers.Position the hands for 10 minutes after 11 oclock. On your clock, label L for the long hand and S for the short hand.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia
Early symptoms of dementia include :
- Forgetting recent events or information
- Repeating comments or questions over a very short period of time
- Misplacing commonly used items or placing them in usual spots
- Not knowing the date or time
- Having difficulty coming up with the right words
- Experiencing a change in mood, behavior or interests
Signs that dementia is getting worse include:
- Ability to remember and make decisions further declines
- Talking and finding the right words becomes more difficult
- Daily complex tasks, such as brushing teeth, making a cup of coffee, working a tv remote, cooking, and paying bills become more challenging
- Rational thinking and behavior and ability to problem solve lessen
- Sleeping pattern change
- Anxiety, frustration, confusion, agitation, suspiciousness, sadness and/or depression increase
- More help with activities of daily living grooming, toileting, bathing, eating is needed
- Hallucinations may develop
The symptoms mentioned above are general symptoms of dementia. Each person diagnosed with dementia has different symptoms, depending on what area of the brain is damaged. Additional symptoms and/or unique symptoms occur with specific types of dementia.
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How To Persuade Your Parent To Get Tested
Your parent might be more aware of his or her memory problems than you realize. For example, Mom might be dropping hints that sheâs starting to struggle, but youâve ignored them because you might not want to accept that there could be a problem. If sheâs trying to subtly tell you that everything isnât OK, be supportive of getting things checked out rather than dismissive, says Teepa Snow, a registered occupational therapist and founder of Positive Approach to Care, a training, education and consulting company building a community of care for people living with dementia.
However, if youâre the one seeing signs of trouble and want to initiate a conversation with your parent, Snow suggests starting by asking a more general question. Try something like, âHow do you feel like youâre doing? Is everything as it has been or are there things that arenât the same?â
If your parent doesnât think anything is wrong and that thereâs no need to be tested, Snow recommends trying one of these approaches.
Reach out to a third party: Ask your parentâs primary care provider or even one of your parentâs friends to suggest that he or she get tested for dementia. Your parent might be more open to the suggestion if it comes from a professional or peer than from you, the child.
Let your parent know that youâre worried about her well-being and that youâre asking her to get checked out by a doctor as a favor to you.
Know The Warning Signs Of Dementia
Knowing the warning signs of Dementia may help you recognize Dementia in the early stages to begin to get the help and form a support team that can help. Some of the warning signs include, but are not limited to:
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
Learn more of the most common warning signs of Dementia.
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Memory Tests Doctors Use For Dementia
The idea that your memory might be slipping is a scary one indeed. Its not always accurate, however, and there are memory tests that doctors can use to test whether its actually happening or not.
A certain amount of forgetfulness is normal as we grow older. We may forget someones name or fail to pay a bill. Such memory lapses are mild and usually a normal part of aging. We have all had instances of losing track of our keys and not remembering the name of the movie we saw last month.
For me, Ive always been great with peoples faces, but their names, or even worse dates forget about it .
There are, however, more serious signs that our short-term memory is failing and that we need to discuss the situation with a doctor. How do we tell the difference?
The Truth About Dementia Tests
Certain tests for dementia don’t offer much diagnostic value in general, including genetic tests for Alzheimer’s. The only gene tests that can accurately determine whether you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease are for the autosomal dominant form, also known as familial early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is very rare, accounting for less than 5% of total cases, and it typically starts before middle age.
A blood test for the Alzheimer’s risk gene, APO-e4, also exists. However, the use of APO-e4 as a screening measure is controversial because it can’t determine for sure whether you will develop the disease.
Also of questionable merit are the do-it-yourself, at-home tests for dementia that are marketed directly to consumers. The Alzheimer’s Association doesn’t recommend these tests, because they don’t provide an adequate assessment of your risks. Distinguishing between normal, age-related memory changes and early signs of a more worrisome condition can be difficult. If you’re going to be evaluated for dementia, you want a neuropsychologist, neurologist, geriatrician, or geriatric psychiatrist to do the testing and help you understand the results.
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