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How To Check If Someone Has Dementia

Where To Find Help

How does a person with dementia see the world?

When your loved one is displaying troubling symptoms, a trip to a primary care physician is often the first step. But to get a definitive diagnosis, youll need to see a specialist such as a neurologist, geriatrician or geriatric psychiatrist.

If you cant find one, the National Institute on Aging recommends contacting the neurology department of a nearby medical school. Some hospitals also have clinics that focus on dementia.

Ailments can mimic dementia

Stage : Moderately Severe Dementia

When the patient begins to forget the names of their children, spouse, or primary caregivers, they are most likely entering stage 6 of dementia and will need full time care. In the sixth stage, patients are generally unaware of their surroundings, cannot recall recent events, and have skewed memories of their personal past. Caregivers and loved ones should watch for:

  • Delusional behavior

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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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Difficulty Finding The Right Words

Another early symptom of dementia is struggling to communicate thoughts. A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult, and it may take longer than usual to conclude.

How The Sage Test For Dementia Works

How to Determine if Your Elderly Loved One has Dementia

SAGE stands for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination and was developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The SAGE test has 12 questions that cover all aspects of cognition, including memory, problem solving, and language.

There are 4 different versions of the test. Theyre similar enough, but having multiple versions means that someone could take the test once a year and wouldnt improve their score each year just from the practice of taking it before.

This way, the test is slightly different each time.

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How To Tell If Someone Has Dementia: Wrapping Up

While these 8 signs are helpful for learning how to tell if someone has dementia, this is far from a definite and comprehensive list. If you have concerns, its always best to make an appointment with a doctor who will know exactly what to look for.

Are you worried about being able to afford treatment and doctors appointments? That shouldnt even be on your radar when it comes to keeping yourself happy and healthy. Read this article on how to find inexpensive health insurance, even if you think you cant afford insurance.

Some Of The Commonly Used Cognitive Tests Include:

Mini-Mental Status Examination

This test is usually conducted by your doctor or specialist in their office and takes around 5 minutes to complete. The MMSE is the most common test for the screening of dementia. It assesses skills such as reading, writing, orientation and short-term memory.

Alzheimers Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive

This 11-part test is more thorough than the MMSE and can be used for people with mild symptoms.

It is considered the best brief examination for memory and language skills.

It takes around 30 minutes and is usually conducted by a specialist in their office, or you may be referred to a psychologist for the test.

Neuropsychological Testing

This involves a number of very sensitive tests administered by a neuropsychologist .

A typical testing session will take at least 2 hours and may be conducted over more than one visit.

A variety of tests will be used and may include tests of memory such as recall of a paragraph, tests of the ability to copy drawings or figures and tests of reasoning and comprehension.

Radiological tests

Standard X-rays may be taken and those who smoke will commonly require a chest X-ray to rule out lung cancer, which may be causing a secondary brain tumour. \

Brain imaging techniques

Various brain-imaging techniques are sometimes used to show brain changes and to rule out other conditions such as tumour, infarcts and hydrocephalus these include:

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Treatment Options For Dementia

Prescription medications to specifically treat some symptoms of progressive dementias are now available. Although these drugs do not halt the disease or reverse existing brain damage, they can minimize the worsening of symptoms temporarily. This may improve an individuals quality of life, ease the burden on caregivers and delay admission to a nursing home. However, each dementia patient is different, and these drugs are not effective for everyone.

Many people with dementia, particularly those in the early stages, benefit from adhering to a clear daily routine and practicing tasks designed to improve performance in specific aspects of cognitive functioning. For example, using memory aids, such as mnemonics, computerized recall devices or note taking can help seniors maintain their day-to-day lives independently for longer.

Provide Support For Family And Friends

Easy Test to Find Out if You May Have Early Signs of Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Keep any family or friends informed about what is happening in a gentle, sensitive and supportive way. This will help reassure them that the person is getting the care they need. You could consider signposting them to appropriate services, such as an Admiral Nurse or local Alzheimers Society. It can also help to give them an opportunity to talk about what is happening.

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Dementia Care Tips From Experienced Caregivers

Caring for someone with dementia isnt intuitive and doesnt come naturally. Theres a lot to learn, but you dont have to figure everything out the hard way.

In a helpful article at Verywell, social worker Esther Heerema shares 12 dementia care tips that caregivers have learned and wished theyd known sooner.

This advice isnt meant to add pressure or expectations to your already tough job. Theyre tips from caregivers who have been there and done that that can lighten your load, reduce stress, and help you cope with the challenges.

Here, we share highlights from Esthers article along with some of our own insights.

1. Its not worth it to argue with someone who has dementiaAlzheimers and dementia causes your older adults brain to malfunction. When they say things that dont make sense or are clearly untrue, they believe what theyre saying because its what their brain is telling them.

Its frustrating to hear things that arent true and instinctive to try to correct or remind. But that will only lead to both of you arguing or getting upset. And you simply cant win an argument with someone who can no longer use reason or logic consistently.

2. Ignoring symptoms wont make them go awayWhen you notice your older adult struggling with memory, thinking, or judgement, its scary to think that they might have dementia. Because it can be so hard to accept, many people hope that the symptoms will go away on their own or that theyre mistaken.

Know The Signs Of Dementia

Early diagnosis can help people with dementia plan for the future, and might mean they can access interventions that help slow down the disease. Being familiar with the signs of dementia can help people receive a diagnosis as early as possible.

Early signs that a person might have dementia can include:

  • being vague in everyday conversations
  • memory loss that affects day-to-day function
  • short term memory loss
  • difficulty performing everyday tasks and taking longer to do routine tasks
  • losing enthusiasm or interest in regular activities
  • difficulties in thinking or saying the right words
  • changes in personality or behaviour
  • finding it difficult to follow instructions
  • finding it difficult to follow stories
  • increased emotional unpredictability.

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What Happens In The Later Stages Of Dementia

  • Progressive loss of memoryThis can be a particularly disturbing time for family and carers as the person with dementia may fail to recognise close family members.
  • Increased loss of physical abilitiesMost people with dementia gradually lose their ability to walk, wash, dress and feed themselves. Other illnesses such as stroke or arthritis may also affect them. Eventually the person will be confined to a bed or a chair.
  • Increased difficulty communicatingA person with dementia will have increasing difficulty in understanding what is said or what is going on around them. They may gradually lose their speech, or repeat a few words or cry out from time to time. But continuing to communicate with them is very important. Remember, although many abilities are lost as dementia progresses, some such as the sense of touch and ability to respond to emotions remain.
  • Problems eatingIt is common for people in the later stages of dementia to lose a considerable amount of weight. People may forget how to eat or drink, or may not recognise the food they are given. Some people become unable to swallow properly. Providing nutrition supplements may need to be considered. If a person has swallowing difficulties, or is not consuming food or drink over a significant period of time and their health is affected, nutrition supplements may be considered for consumption other than by mouth.

Early Signs Of Dementia

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Its not easy to spot the early signs of dementia in someone we are caring for. If a person is struggling to remember a name, follow a conversation or recall what they did yesterday, many of us may put it down to the fact that the person is getting older. But it may well be a warning that they are in the early stages of dementia.

Family, friends and care workers are likely to be the first to see the signs and play a key role in encouraging a person receiving care to see a GP.

Because I was with my wife continuously, I think I was less likely to recognise some of the changes that were taking place than people who saw her less regularly.

A carer speaking about his wifes early signs of dementia, healthtalk website

A doctor can help establish whether a person has dementia or a treatable illness or condition that can cause dementia-like symptoms, such as depression, a urinary infection or nutritional disorders.

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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.

In addition, medical conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and delirium can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia, as can side effects of certain medicines.

Researchers have also identified many other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms. These conditions include:

When Should Mental Capacity Be Assessed In A Person With Dementia

You must always assume that a person is able to make a decision for themselves, until it is proved that they cant.

A persons capacity may be questioned if there is doubt about whether they can make a particular decision. This could happen if:

  • the persons behaviour or circumstances are making those around them doubt whether the person has capacity to make a particular decision
  • a professional says they have doubts about the persons ability to make the decision this could be a social worker or the persons GP
  • the person has previously been unable to make a decision for themselves.

To work out whether a person has capacity to make a decision, the law says you must do a test to find out whether they have the ability to make the particular decision at the particular time.

Before the person is tested, they should be given as much help as possible to make the decision for themselves. Those who are supporting the person to make the decision should find the most helpful way to communicate with the person. This may mean:

  • trying to explain the information to them in a different way
  • helping them to understand the ideas that are involved in making the decision
  • breaking down information into small chunks.

Not all decisions need to be made immediately. It is sometimes possible to delay a decision until a person has capacity to make it. However, this wont be possible for every decision.

Tips on communicating with a person with dementia

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Encouraging Someone To See Their Gp

If dementia is detected early, in some cases its progress can be slowed and the person affected might be able to maintain their mental function for longer.

It might help to suggest that you accompany your friend or relative to the GP to support them. This way, after the appointment you can help them recall what has been discussed.

Dementia is diagnosed by doctors ruling out other conditions that could cause similar symptoms and carrying out a thorough assessment.

A GP or a doctor specialising in memory problems will run a series of tests to see if theres an alternative explanation for the problems. The doctor will also want to discuss how symptoms have developed over time.

As A Care Worker How Can You Help

Avoid doing this with someone with dementia.

There are many conditions and circumstances where you may see signs and symptoms that may be confused with dementia. As a care worker, it is not your responsibility to try to diagnose the condition. However, as you may be the one person who sees the individual on a regular basis, you are well placed to notice any changes. Encouraging an older person to visit their GP on a regular basis can help them to maintain their general health and wellbeing.

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How To Test For Dementia

This article was co-authored by Jurdy Dugdale, RN. Jurdy Dugdale is a Registered Nurse in Florida. She received her Nursing License from the Florida Board of Nursing in 1989.There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 89% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 215,620 times.

Although it’s not a clearly defined disease, dementia is usually diagnosed when a person experiences a steep mental decline that interferes with their everyday life. It causes issues with memory and cognitive abilities, which can be debilitating.XTrustworthy SourceAlzheimer’s AssociationNonprofit organizaton focused on supporting those affected by Alzheimer’s and promoting research on the diseaseGo to source While it’s common, dementia is also hard to diagnose, so you’ll need to work with a doctor. A friend or family member can administer the Mini-Mental State Exam for a general idea of cognitive function, but a doctor can make best use of the results.

Future Directions In Diagnosis Research

Considerable research effort is being put into the development of better tools for accurate and early diagnosis. Research continues to provide new insights that in the future may promote early detection and improved diagnosis of dementia, including:

  • Better dementia assessment tests that are suitable for people from diverse educational, social, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
  • New computerised cognitive assessment tests which can improve the delivery of the test and simplify responses.
  • Improved screening tools to allow dementia to be more effectively identified and diagnosed by GPs.
  • The development of blood and spinal fluid tests to measure Alzheimers related protein levels and determine the risk of Alzheimers disease.
  • The use of sophisticated brain imaging techniques and newly developed dyes to directly view abnormal Alzheimers protein deposits in the brain, yielding specific tests for Alzheimers disease.

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Caring For Someone With Dementia Towards The End Of Life

Please be aware this information is for healthcare professionals. We also have information for the public.

You can use our My Learning form to reflect on how this page has helped with your continuing professional development.

People with dementia may experience problems with thinking, memory, behaviour and mobility. It can be difficult to recognise when someone with dementia is nearing the end of their life. You can support the person by communicating with them and helping them with any symptoms they have. If possible, its a good idea to plan the persons care in advance to help understand what they want from their care.

On this page:

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Everyone occasionally loses their keys, or goes into a room and forgets why theyre there. It is also perfectly natural to mix up peoples names and sometimes forget appointments that youve made. These memory lapses often unfortunately become more frequent as we get older, or when we are busy or distracted. In all probability, they do not mean that you have Alzheimers, or any other type of dementia.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are worrying about your memory, and you noticing your own lapses as they come and go, then its unlikely you have dementia.

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