Key Symptoms Of Dementia
Dr. Kernisan describes the 5 issues that people with dementia typically experience:
- Difficulty with one or more types of mental function, like learning, memory, language, judgement
- Problems that are a change compared to the persons usual abilities
- Problems that make it difficult for them to manage everyday life responsibilities, like work or family
- Problems that arent caused by another mental disorder, like depression
Are There Any Clinical Trials That Might Be Appropriate To Try
Some clinical trials might be available for your particular situation. You can also refer to the clinical trial match program on the Alzheimer’s Association website. There are pros and cons to participating in clinical trials, and your healthcare provider may be able to help you evaluate these, given your specific situation, diagnosis, health, and philosophy of disease management.
Benefits Of Getting A Diagnosis
Early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimers disease or another dementia is critical to ensuring proper support, care and treatment of the illness. It is also important because it allows people with the disease and their families to make key financial and care decisions while they are still functioning at the highest possible level.
The diagnosis of dementia often comes as a complete shock. However, many people feel relieved once they have identified the source of their worries after a diagnosis has been made.
Getting an early diagnosis will help you to move forward and gain more control over your life by taking the necessary steps to live better with the disease. Receiving an early diagnosis allows a person to:
- Understand the symptoms they are experiencing, and the changes that they can expect
- Gain access to information, resources and support
- Benefit from and explore treatment options
- Plan for the future
- Develop and engage support networks
- Maximize their quality of life.
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Tips For Choosing A Medical Provider
Once youve developed a potential list of AD providers, its time to contact their office and determine if they could be the right doctor for your loved one. Examples of questions to ask on the first phone call can include:
- What insurance types do you accept?
- What types of services are offered for those with AD?
- Are there any special qualifications or behavioral needs your practice works with or doesnt work with ?
- How is the staff trained in AD and dementia? Do any support staff members have special credentials related to AD care?
Another deciding factor could be the level of experience the provider has in treating people with AD. Some seek board certification in gerontology or in their chosen medical field. This means the doctor has undergone continuing education and further testing to prove they have extensive knowledge on a particular subject.
Many medical practices will also offer a free meet and greet appointment during which you meet the medical provider and tour the office to ensure its the best fit for a loved one. You may also wish to ask if the provider can give you references or testimonials from their patients. Speaking to others can help you determine what it would be like to see this doctor on a regular basis.
Can Dementia Lead To Death
This is a bit of a semantic question. Dementia doesnt cause death. But the life expectancy of a person with Alzheimers is about 10 years on average, from the very earliest symptoms to death, and it does vary. So, it shortens life expectancy, but the immediate causes are likely to be things like pneumonia, dehydration, or falls. Neurodegenerative causes of dementialike Alzheimers diseaseshorten life expectancy more than vascular diseases that cause dementiaindividuals with vascular dementia can be fairly stable over time.
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What New Methods For Diagnosing Alzheimers Disease Are Being Studied
Scientists are exploring ways to help physicians diagnose Alzheimers disease earlier and more accurately. The ultimate goal is a reliable, valid, and inexpensive diagnostic test that can be used in any doctors office.
Some studies focus on changes in personality and mental functioning, measured through memory and recall tests, which might point to early Alzheimers or predict whether individuals are at higher risk of developing the disease. Other studies are examining the relationship between early damage to brain tissue and outward clinical signs.
Another very promising area of diagnostic research is the analysis of biomarkersbiological signs of disease found in brain images, cerebrospinal fluid, and bloodto detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and in cognitively normal people who may be at greater risk for Alzheimers disease. Studies indicate that such early detection may be possible, but more research is needed before these techniques can be relied upon to diagnose Alzheimers disease in everyday medical practice.
Alzheimers disease biomarkers:
Normal Memory Loss Vs Dementia
Its normal as we age to have some memory loss that doesnt affect quality of life. We often cant remember a name but recall it later. Or we misplace our keys and find them after some searching. These are the types of memory challenges most of us face and can be managed with lists and habits such as key hooks.
In contrast dementia includes less manageable memory loss symptoms. These will include things like using the wrong words for things such as couch and car. Other symptoms include forgetting common works, asking the same questions over and over, getting lost in familiar places, taking a longer time to follow simple instructions, or changes in behavior and mood without a cause.
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How Does A Doctor Test For Alzheimers
When you see a doctor regarding memory loss, they will conduct a series of tests to determine the symptoms and causes of the changes in your behavior. These tests are not an exact science yet, but they will help the doctor develop an overall picture of your brain health. You should take these tests as soon as possible to receive the best treatment and plan for the future. When in doubt as to whether to see the doctor, it is best to lean on the side of caution.
Your doctor will not rely on one or two test results alone. There are several diagnostic tools that he or she will use to pinpoint any memory loss problems.
The first thing any doctor will do is get your complete medical history, including any medication you are taking. This data will include your familys medical history as well to determine any genetic risks.
This history gathering will be following by laboratory tests to eliminate any causes of the memory loss, such as thyroid problems, diabetes and kidney issues, and faulty drug interactions. These lab tests usually involve blood and urine tests, and the taking of vital signs. The doctor will have a thorough discussion about lifestyle and habits.
As a final option, the doctor will suggest and/or perform cognitive tests.
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:
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Allow Time For Everyone To Accept The Diagnosis
A diagnosis of dementia can create a whirlwind of emotions. Its natural to experience feelings of denial, fear, anger, sadness, frustration and even guilt. While the ups and downs can vary from day to day, your emotional state should even out with time.
As no two people process such complex feelings the same way, allow yourself, your parent and other family members the time needed to work through these feelings. If the feelings become overwhelming or elevate to a deep depression that wont go away, seek help from a medical professional.
Much Of The Promising Research Is In Neurology
Since this disease is a brain disorder, it stands to reason that some of the most promising research findings come from the field of neurology. For example, in a recent study, neuroscientists found that a certain type of light therapy reversed the advance of Alzheimers in mice.
Only a neurologist is likely to know about research projects like this and how they might impact your loved ones health. If you have questions about current research, a neurologist may be the best person to answer them.
Staying Informed with Five Star Senior Living
Here at Five Star Senior Living, were constantly working to stay current with scientific developments in Alzheimers diagnosis and treatment. Our memory care program is designed around sound principles of science, much of which involves the work of neurologists.
One example is our Bridge to Rediscovery Program, a type of Montessori-based dementia program offered exclusively at Five Star Senior Living communities. This program is designed to provide a safe, nurturing environment that offers seniors living with Alzheimers disease a place to flourish.
If youd like to know more about our Bridge to Rediscovery program or to see one of our memory care neighborhoods, find a community near you and schedule a tour.
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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.
Not All Dementia Specialists Are Trained In Neurology
A specialist may know more than the family doctor about the latest research in Alzheimers, but there are still several types to choose from. The family doctor may refer you to any of the following, based on your loved ones unique set of circumstances:
- Behavioral neurologist
Note that not all the above are trained in neurology.
Psychologists and geriatricians are not required to earn certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists and neurologists must earn this certification by demonstrating a thorough knowledge of neurology, among other topics.
Thats why any of these professionals may offer help but only the last twothe neurologistswill have a high level of expertise about the inner workings of the brain.
Neurologists are trained to detect subtleties of the brain that cause memory problems. Only they can conduct a thorough neurological exam and recommend subsequent treatment for brain disorders such as Alzheimers.
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What Kind Of Dementia Is This
Some people don’t ask this question because they don’t want to know. And, some clinicians use the word “dementia” because the word “Alzheimer’s” scares people more. As hard as it may be to hear, it can be helpful to know what to expect and to learn as much as possible about the specific type of dementia the healthcare provider believes is causing these symptoms.
When Is Memory Loss A Problem
Do you keep asking the same questions over and over? Are you having difficulty following easy, simple instructions, such as how to put together a recipe? Do you keep becoming more and more mixed up over people and places.
Alzheimers Disease, as we all know, can lead to memory loss, but not all memory loss is linked to Alzheimers and related dementias. And, in some cases, it can be treated once the cause has been found.
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If Youre Worried About Possible Dementia
Lets say youre like the man I spoke to recently, and youre worried that an older parent might have dementia. Youre planning to have a doctor assess your parent. Heres how you can help the process along:
- Obtain copies of your parents medical information, so you can bring them to the dementia evaluation visit. The most useful information to bring is laboratory results and any imaging of the brain, such as CAT scans or MRIs. See this post for a longer list of medical information that is very helpful to bring to a new doctor.
Why Does Dementia Occur
Alzheimers is far and away the leading causeit accounts for about two-thirds of all late-onset dementia . Other disorders and diseases account for the rest. And why Alzheimers disease occurs is an unending and, perhaps, philosophical question. For example, you could ask, What are the changes in the brain that precede and are associated with the onset of symptoms? But then you would also have to ask why those occur. And so on. You could also ask: “What predisposes certain people to get Alzheimers disease?” The greatest risk factor is age. Among U.S. men and women ages 65 to 75, about 3% have Alzheimers for ages 75 to 85, between 10 to 15% live with the disease and for those older than 85, approximately 35% have it.
So, why is age a risk factor? We dont fully knowand thats a big area of current research. The second most important risk factor is family history and genetics: The major genetic risk factor is called apolipoprotein E4 , which might account for up to 40% of the risk. But why is APOE4 a risk factor? Again, we dont fully know. A nonhereditary risk factor is previous head injuries. And, of course, there is much ongoing research about lifestyle, including diet and exercise. So, theres not a clear-cut answer on why dementia occurs.
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What Does A Neurologist Do
If a patient is referred to a neurologist for memory or cognitive issues, likely theyll undergo some testing. Blood tests help determine if, for example, a vitamin deficiency or thyroid dysfunction is a treatable cause of the impairment, McMurtray said. Patients might also undergo brain imaging to detect any abnormalities, such as signs of a stroke, bleeding or tumors.
If Alzheimers or another form of dementia is the diagnosis, then the neurologist will start treatment options to help slow disease progression. Most of the value we add, McMurtray explained, is with the initial workup, the diagnosis, and making sure there isnt another cause. After that, we start medications. And we might check with the patient once a year to see how theyre doing or more frequently if needed.
Thats why a geriatrician can be a great asset to your care team. A geriatrician can absolutely serve as a primary care physician and would be able to address additional medical problems that the patient might have, McMurtray said. Whereas the neurologist would mainly be evaluating and treating the dementia.
Who Gives The Diagnosis
The GP will, in most cases, tell a patient about a diagnosis of dementia. If the person has been referred to a specialist for further tests or brain scans, reports of those will be sent to the GP. In some cases, a doctor may decide a diagnosis is too much for the person to cope with and may initially inform a partner or close relative.
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Test Results Supporting Diagnosis
Physical and neurological examinations and various tests may help distinguish LBD from other illnesses. Specific tests that may support an LBD diagnosis include:
- A positron emission tomography scan or a single-photon emission computerized tomography scan showing reduced dopamine transporter uptake in the basal ganglia
- Abnormal 123iodine-MIBG myocardial scintigraphy showing reduced communication of cardiac nerves
- Sleep study confirming REM sleep behavior disorder without loss of muscle tone
Read more about diagnosing dementia, including tests and who can make a diagnosis.
There are no tests that can definitively diagnose LBD. Currently, only a brain autopsy after death can confirm a suspected diagnosis. However, researchers are studying ways to diagnose LBD earlier and more accurately during life. The use of certain imaging, blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and genetics tests is being studied.
Asking For More Information About Your Dementia Diagnosis
If you’re diagnosed with dementia, you can ask the doctor:
- which type of dementia you have
- about tests or investigations you should have
- how long you’ll have to wait until you have the tests
- how long it will take to get the test results
- what will happen after you get the results
To read more about living well with dementia, go to the NHS website.
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What Are The Different Types Of Dementia
Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.
The five most common forms of dementia are:
- Alzheimers disease, the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins, known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
- Frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.
- Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
- Vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
- Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.