Some symptoms of dementia can mirror symptoms of other, treatable conditions, so it’s important to get a diagnosis for your symptoms. Typically, a diagnosis starts by understanding and recognizing the 10 signs of cognitive impairment. This guide will walk you through the more common steps of receiving a dementia diagnosis.
Did you know that your free Annual Medicare Wellness Visit (AWV) includes a Cognitive Impairment Assessment?
Step 1: Know the 10 signs
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the most common cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
• Memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks
• Challenges with planning and problem solving
• Confusion with time and place
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• Problems with speaking and writing
• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood or personality
Step 2: Talk to your doctor
If you recognize any of the 10 signs, the next recommended step is to call your primary care doctor. While he or she will be an important part of your care team, a primary care doctor may refer you to specialists to determine the cause of your symptoms. According to the National Institute on Aging, neurologists generally have the expertise to diagnose dementia, although other specialists may also be skilled in making a diagnosis. Members of your care team may include cognitive neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and geriatricians.
Call your primary care physician
Discuss your concerns with your doctor and ask for an objective assessment to detect cognitive impairment
Enlist the help of community resources:
Alzheimer’s Association who can be reached online at www.alz.org or call 707.573.1210
Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook Community you can find online support at www.facebook.com/RememberForAlzheimers
Our friends at Legacy Concierge Services are another excellent place to begin to explore all your options and resources available to you. You can book a zoom appt. online with Molly and Deanna at www.legacyconciergeservices.com or ring them up at 707.732.4527
Importance of early detection
Being proactive with your health by requesting the assessment can lead to many positive outcomes:
Understanding the cause and treating the underlying disease or health condition
Emphasis can be put on treatment, reducing symptoms and care, rather than searching for a diagnosis
Allows for the person and their family/significant others to have important conversations about the person’s wishes and their future care.
Gives the person and their family time to plan or create advance directives
Allows time for the person to assemble a care team that can help with medical, legal, financial and safety concerns
Promotes disease education and community support, through groups, etc.
May allow for access to research and clinical trials
Alzheimer’s disease and the other dementias are usually slow and progressive illnesses. The average length of life after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is eight years, although many people live much longer.
While there are different theories and views of staging, many senior care professionals, including David Troxel, co-developer of the Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s care, believes that understanding three basic stages (early, middle and late stage) can help families prepare for the caregiving journey.
Caregiving becomes quite profound and focused on physical care and well-being. Although the person may not recognize family or friends, it’s important to continue expressing love and affection. There’s still a person inside, who needs dignity and respect.
“Supportive companions are important no matter where your family member is in this long journey,” says Troxel. “Building a strong network of caregivers, support groups, and friends can help a family prepare for and address needs and challenges at every stage of Alzheimer’s.”
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonomato educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She and her team would love to hear from you at 586-1516.