A dementia diagnosis can change a senior’s world overnight. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better a senior’s outcomes can be. How is dementia diagnosed in seniors?
How Is Dementia Diagnosed?
While a dementia diagnosis is not inevitable for every senior, the fact is that one-third of all people over the age of eighty-five will most likely develop some form of the disease. Knowing how to spot dementia and what you can do about it means that you and your loved ones will have a plan if and when a diagnosis occurs. So, how is dementia diagnosed in seniors, and what should you do if you suspect it may be present?
What Is Dementia?
Many people think dementia is a disease in and of itself, but this is untrue. Dementia is an umbrella diagnosis for conditions that cause memory issues and cognitive impairments in seniors. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common source of senior dementia diagnosis. It accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all cases. However, dementia can be caused by a variety of other conditions that are common to seniors:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Brain health issues (vascular dementia or posterior cortical atrophy)
- Huntington’s disease
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Creutzfeldt-Jacobs disease
Because so many different conditions can result in dementia, diagnosis can vary from patient to patient. The treatments and therapies that will be effective for each patient also vary.
Some dementia symptoms can also be caused by things that aren’t related to dementia. For example, medication side effects, depression, and even insomnia can cause seniors confusion and agitation. This is why pursuing a formal diagnosis is so important. It can help you rule out other issues or find a potential cure.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Dementia?
It would be nice if there were something as simple as a test for dementia. Unfortunately, because many different conditions cause dementia, diagnosing it is a little more complex. In general, doctors will begin to investigate a dementia diagnosis if they have reason to believe it may be present. For some seniors, this can be because of a family history of dementia or a disease that can cause it. But for many, the process begins because friends and family members notice slips in memory and cognitive function.
If a doctor suspects a patient has dementia, they will narrow their diagnosis by looking at the patient’s complete medical history. They will also typically perform a physical examination and order bloodwork and other laboratory tests. Based on the information that the doctor can glean from this process, they will be able to diagnose dementia with a relatively high level of certainty.
What Can I Do If I Think I Have Dementia?
Because so many different conditions cause dementia, the best thing you can do if you suspect you may have dementia is to talk to a medical professional immediately. There are many potential solutions and therapies, and you want to make sure you’re accessing the right ones for you.
If you need support regarding a potential dementia diagnosis, reach out to your doctor or another qualified medical professional. You don’t have to go through it alone.
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