Testing & Diagnosis
Nothing is more important to your parent and your family than an accurate diagnosis. Do not accept a diagnosis consisting of “At his age, what do you expect? He’s got some dementia. Go home and live the best life you can.”
Ageism and its assumption that ‘Age + Forgetfulness = Alzheimer’s’, often prevents needed treatment for the over 50 other diseases and conditions exhibiting dementia symptoms.
Alzheimer’s cannot be diagnosed solely by a single traditional medical examination, one psychological test, or a series of forgetful episodes. Accept a diagnosis only after a Board Certified Neurologist specializing in dementing illnesses performs a complete medical evaluation to rule out the many different diseases and conditions other than Alzheimer’s that can produce dementia symptoms. These diseases include: ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Diffuse Lewey Body, depression, hydrocephalus, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid disorders, head injuries, urinary tract infections (UTI) and adverse drug reactions, to name just a few.
An incorrect diagnosis may condemn your parent to a life of confusion, fear, and dependency, and subject you and your family to unneeded physical, emotional, and financial stress.
Alzheimer’s testing is generally administered in an outpatient setting under the supervision of a board-certified neurologist specializing in dementia. As science understands AD better, simplified testing will become available. Currently, the procedure includes extensive neurological and psychological testing, a variety of laboratory tests, gathering data to create a detailed patient history, and a complete physical examination.
After all the testing has been completed, a final visit entails a frank discussion with the supervising neurologist about the diagnosis, treatment plan, prognosis, and referrals for assistance with caregiving. The information gathered at this meeting will help you to plan for future needs including: caregiving, housing, medical care, support groups, family education, and training, as well as with necessary legal and financial details. If you don’t receive referrals for assistance from the physician, ask for them or call your local Alzheimer’s community organization.