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What Does A Dementia Diagnosis Mean

What Are The Risk Factors For Dementia

What is dementia?

The risk factors for developing dementia include age and family history. Age and a family history of dementia are non-modifiable risk factors. Abnormal genes which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease have been identified, but are only rarely involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes increase the risks of developing either Alzheimer’s disease or multi-infarct dementia. Some medications can lead to memory problems which look like dementia.

What To Expect When You See A Gp About Dementia

A GP will ask about your symptoms and other aspects of your health.

They’ll also ask if you’re finding it difficult to manage everyday activities such as:

  • washing and dressing
  • cooking and shopping
  • paying bills

If possible, someone who knows you well should be with you at your GP appointment, so they can describe any changes or problems they’ve noticed. They could also help you remember what was said at the appointment, if this is difficult for you.

Memory problems do not necessarily mean you have dementia. These problems can have other causes, such as:

To help rule out other causes of memory problems, the GP will do a physical examination and may organise tests, such as a blood test and urine test.

You’ll also be asked to do a memory or cognitive test to check any problems with your memory or ability to think clearly.

Read more about the tests used to diagnose dementia.

Seeing A Dementia Specialist

If you go to see a specialist, it can be helpful to:

  • write down questions you want to ask them
  • write down any medical terms the doctor says
  • ask if you can come back if you would like more information
  • get information about any tests theyll do

The specialist may organise other tests including:

  • a computerised tomography scan
  • a magnetic resonance imaging scan

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Early Diagnosis Is Crucial

Dr. Guite: How are you feeling about the future for dementia and Alzheimers?

Paula: Its a tricky one. I think, in our situation, if were to be brutally honest, its too late for any sort of treatment for my mom. For us, its just about keeping her safe, making sure shes fed, making sure she drinks

You know, my question is at what point do you think that people should approach their doctor for a diagnosis or a brain scan? Because, you know, in her case, we didnt notice it, it was too late. Im not saying they could have stopped it.

But at what point do you think that we need to get on top of this, and actually not wait until the diagnosis? Because once youve got a diagnosis, you know, theres pretty little that you can do, and its sad, its a waiting game, and we dont know what to expect. We had no warning, there was nothing that we could do about it in advance.

Dr. Ameen-Ali: I would say that diagnosis as early as possible is the best thing to do, really. And that can be really challenging, because often, those early signs can be just dismissed as getting older or not really significant enough.

the earlier the diagnosis, the better, because treatments will be the most effective. They cant stop the disease, but they can have a much more significant impact on symptoms the earlier that theyre delivered.

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for Alzheimers & dementia, visit our dedicated hub.

Brain Imaging Can Aid Professionals

Seven Stages of Vascular Dementia Dementia t

In most cases, brain imaging can assist professionals in diagnosing dementia, ruling out other possibilities with similar symptoms and verifying which stage a patient may be experiencing. Using scans to analyze signs of dementia can exclude the possibility of lesions that cause cognitive degeneration or impairment .

It can also help to determine which kind of dementia a patient is experiencing. For instance, vascular dementia may not show evidence of a cortical loss, whereas this qualifier could still allow a patient to have Alzheimer’s disease. Also, by undergoing frequent scans, neurologists can make a determination of how the disease is progressing. If a diagnosis is uncertain, follow-up scans taken after a few years can prove that degeneration is occurring. Finally, brain imaging can assist researchers in determining how each disease can affect a patient, and whether certain treatments are effective.

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Dementia Vs Alzheimers Disease

Dementia and Alzheimers disease are not the same. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a collection of symptoms related to memory, language, and decision-making.

AD is the most common type of dementia. It causes difficulty with short-term memory, depression, disorientation, behavioral changes, and more.

Dementia causes symptoms such as forgetfulness or memory impairment, loss of sense of direction, confusion, and difficulty with personal care. The exact constellation of symptoms will depend on the type of dementia you have.

AD can also cause these symptoms, but other symptoms of AD may include depression, impaired judgment, and difficulty speaking.

Likewise, treatments for dementia depend on the type you have. However, AD treatments often overlap with other non-pharmacological dementia treatments.

In the case of some types of dementia, treating the underlying cause may be helpful in reducing or stopping the memory and behavior problems. However, that is not the case with AD.

Its absolutely normal to forget things once in a while. Memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. There is a difference between occasional forgetfulness and forgetfulness that is cause for serious concern.

Potential red flags for dementia include:

  • forgetting who someone is
  • forgetting how to do common tasks, such as how to use the telephone or find your way home
  • inability to comprehend or retain information that has been clearly provided

What’s The Best Way Of Dealing With My Diagnosis

At first you may feel shock, disbelief or fear. You may also feel relieved that you can put a name to what’s going on.

There is no right or wrong way to feel. Take your time to process what it means for you. It can help to talk to someone and get support.

Talking about your diagnosis can be difficult. You might get emotional, which is perfectly natural. You may approach the topic differently with different people, and find it easier to talk about it with certain people. However you approach these conversations is personal to you and theres no right way to do it.

Counselling and therapy

You can talk to someone who isn’t family or a friend. For some, talking to someone you don’t know is easier than talking to someone close to you.

Counselling gives you a chance to speak openly with someone who will listen to you without judging you or your situation. It can help you feel clearer about your concerns and find ways to manage them. They may be able to help with feelings of fear and anger surrounding a diagnosis.

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When To See A Doctor

Forgetfulness and memory problems dont automatically point to dementia. These are normal parts of aging and can also occur due to other factors, such as fatigue. Still, you shouldnt ignore the symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing a number of dementia symptoms that arent improving, talk with a doctor.

They can refer you to a neurologist who can examine you or your loved ones physical and mental health and determine whether the symptoms result from dementia or another cognitive problem. The doctor may order:

  • a complete series of memory and mental tests
  • a neurological exam
  • brain imaging tests

If youre concerned about your forgetfulness and dont already have a neurologist, you can view doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.

Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people. Early onset of the disease can begin when people are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. With treatment and early diagnosis, you can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function. The treatments may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy.

Possible causes of dementia include:

Can Dementia Be Diagnosed During A Single Visit

What is Dementia?

So can dementia be diagnosed during a single visit? As you can see from above, it depends on how much information is easily available at that visit. It also depends on the symptoms and circumstances of the older adult being evaluated.

Memory clinics are more likely to provide a diagnosis during the visit, or shortly afterwards. Thats because they usually request a lot of relevant medical information ahead of time, send the patient for tests if needed, and interview the patient and informers extensively during the visit.

But in the primary care setting, and in my own geriatric consultations, I find that clinicians need more than one visit to diagnose dementia or probable dementia. Thats because we usually need to order tests, request past medical records for review, and gather more information from the people who know the senior being evaluated. Its a bit like a detectives investigation!

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What Are The Types Of Dementia

Dementias are often broken down into two main categories — Alzheimer type or non-Alzheimer type. Dementias of the Alzheimers disease type are defined by the symptoms of memory loss plus impairment in other brain functions, such as language function inability to move the muscles associated with speech or perception, visual or other inabilities to recognize speech or name objects .

Non-Alzheimer dementias include the frontotemporal lobar degenerations, which are further broken down into two main types. One type primarily affects speech. An example is primary progressive aphasia syndromes. The other type is defined by changes in behavior, including lack of feeling, emotion, interest or concern loss of a social filter personality change and loss of executive functions . In both of these frontotemporal lobe dementias, memory loss is relatively mild until later in the course of the disease.

Other non-Alzheimers disease dementias include vascular disorders , dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s dementia, and normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Taking Care Of Emotional Needs

It is important to find healthy ways to deal with the emotions following a dementia diagnosis. Once a commitment is made to take care of ones emotional needs, this new phase of life can be experienced with a sense of connection to emotional health. There are a variety of approaches to aid in accomplishing this. The following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Talk to your doctor about your emotional well-being. Your doctor can determine the most appropriate treatment plan to address your concerns.
  • Use a written or audio journal to capture your thoughts and feelings about the diagnosis. Take the time you need to feel sad and to mourn the losses you are experiencing.
  • Discuss your family and friends feelings in dealing with the diagnosis. Speak honestly about your emotions and theirs.
  • Create a support system to include those who are also experiencing the early stages of dementia. Join the ALZConnected Message Board and learn more about the support programs available to patients and their families.
  • Discuss your condition with a counselor or clergy member who can help you to see the situation from another perspective and help you to understand more fully the emotions you are feeling.
  • Stay involved by continuing to enjoy the activities you love for as long as you are able.

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Key Points About Early

  • Alzheimer disease commonly affects older people, but early-onset Alzheimer disease can affect people in their 30s or 40s.

  • It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.

  • Although there is no known cure, early diagnosis and treatment can lead to better quality of life.

  • Stay healthy with a good diet and regular exercise.

  • Avoid alcohol and other substances that may affect memory, thinking, and behavior.

How Will I Be Diagnosed


Getting diagnosed with dementia can help you make changes to help you live as well as possible and make plans for the future. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how dementia is usually diagnosed.

  • Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and how they are affecting your daily life. A family member or friend can go with you for support, or to help you explain what’s been happening.
  • The doctor will then assess your symptoms and make sure they aren’t being caused by another problem, such as a thyroid problem, a urinary tract infection, constipation, a side-effect of medication, stress, tiredness or depression.
  • The doctor may carry out some tests to check your thinking and memory.
  • Your doctor may want to refer you to a memory clinic or consultant with specialist knowledge for a fuller assessment. If the doctor doesn’t suggest it, you can ask to be referred as you have a right to ask for a second opinion.
  • Staff at a memory clinic may want to carry out further tests, including a brain scan, to help them reach a diagnosis.
  • After the tests, your consultant should explain their findings, discuss next steps with you and answer any questions you may have.
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    How Is Dementia Treated

    Treatment of dementia depends on the underlying cause. Neurodegenerative dementias, like Alzheimers disease, have no cure, though there are medications that can help protect the brain or manage symptoms such as anxiety or behavior changes. Research to develop more treatment options is ongoing.

    Leading a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining social contacts, decreases chances of developing chronic diseases and may reduce number of people with dementia.

    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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    Why Is Dementia Progressive

    There are hundreds of different types of dementia however the four most common types are Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and dementia with lewy-bodies.

    Every type of dementia prevents the cells in the brain from working properly, and over time, causes damage to the brain. Alzheimers and Frontotemporal dementia does this by shrinking brain tissue in certain areas of the brain. Vascular dementia stops blood from getting to brain cells, causing them to die, and dementia with lewybodies causes small deposits of protein on the brains nerve cells, preventing them from functioning.

    There is no cure for the brain damage caused by any of the forms of dementia. So, while at first only a small part of the brain will be effected, over time the damage will spread to other areas and cause new or worsening symptoms. The progression of symptoms is often categorised into one of three stages early stage, middle stage, and late stage dementia.

    Diagnosis As A Collective Cumulative Contingent Process

    What is dementia? Alzheimer’s Research UK

    One of the most striking findings was that diagnosis was not a discrete act that took place at a particular moment in time, but a collective, cumulative, contingent process. Despite the policy focus on the urgency of early diagnosis, GPs gave accounts that drew attention to the slow unfolding of becoming a person with dementia. None of the doctors examples involved reaching a diagnosis at a single consultation. The diagnosis would emerge, often over many months, involving not only several consultations but also different combinations of patient and family members, and sometimes evaluations in different locations . GPs talked about taking it slowly, slowly or a softly, softly approach or chip, chip, chipping away at it. This involved supporting their patient in the here and now, supporting the patients sense of identity and helping them manage their relationships with spouses and children. Helping the person , finding out their concerns and those of their family was the starting point of their decision-making, not necessarily the issue of making a diagnosis: I look after you, you are my concern and less of a concern is which label I use for what you have .

    is a GP’s account of her experience with a particular patient whom she had looked after for about 15years. The patient was in her 80s and lived alone, with a son and other relatives nearby.

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    Why Early Diagnosis Of Dementia Is Important

    Dementia is a profoundly life-changing condition and reactions to a diagnosis can range from dismay and deep sadness to anger and despair. But for many people, it can also come as a relief. A diagnosis may well provide long-awaited answers for a failing memory, communication problems and changes in behaviour.

    An early diagnosis opens the door to future care and treatment. It helps people to plan ahead while they are still able to make important decisions on their care and support needs and on financial and legal matters. It also helps them and their families to receive practical information, advice and guidance as they face new challenges.

    What Are The Most Common Types Of Dementia

    • Alzheimers disease. This is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases. It is caused by specific changes in the brain. The trademark symptom is trouble remembering recent events, such as a conversation that occurred minutes or hours ago, while difficulty remembering more distant memories occurs later in the disease. Other concerns like difficulty with walking or talking or personality changes also come later. Family history is the most important risk factor. Having a first-degree relative with Alzheimers disease increases the risk of developing it by 10 to 30 percent.
    • Vascular dementia. About 10 percent of dementia cases are linked to strokes or other issues with blood flow to the brain. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also risk factors. Symptoms vary depending on the area and size of the brain impacted. The disease progresses in a step-wise fashion, meaning symptoms will suddenly get worse as the individual gets more strokes or mini-strokes.
    • Lewy body dementia. In addition to more typical symptoms like memory loss, people with this form of dementia may have movement or balance problems like stiffness or trembling. Many people also experience changes in alertness including daytime sleepiness, confusion or staring spells. They may also have trouble sleeping at night or may experience visual hallucinations .

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