A new case of Alzheimer’s disease is developed every 67 seconds. Meanwhile, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is on the rise, with the numbers expected to double or even triple by the year 2030. This degenerative brain disease affects millions of people around the world…and has no known cure. Over time, it impacts your memory function, mood, and even your independence. With so many life-altering symptoms related to the disease, early detection is key. Unfortunately, obtaining an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be difficult.
Despite the fact that Alzheimer’s affects the lives of men and women across the country, diagnosis can take months or even years. Why is this the case? Early symptoms may appear to be signs of other diseases or may be dismissed as issues related to aging. This can prolong proper diagnosis, which in turn causes patients and loved ones to feel frustrated and powerless. Are you wondering what you can do to speed things up? Then you’ll need to understand how Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed – and what to be on the lookout for.
Early diagnosis is important. For starters, it allows families to look at treatment options for symptoms related to the disease, like depression. It also gives patients and their loved ones the opportunity to focus on a healthy diet and lifestyle. This has been found to slow down the progression of the disease. In addition, early diagnosis gives family members more time to find appropriate care plans for the patient as the disease progresses. However, the reality is that Alzheimer’s disease cannot be diagnosed completely accurately until after death. That is why a proper diagnosis can be drawn out. Doctors use a process of elimination that has an accuracy of about 90%.
It starts by finding out more about the patients’ medical history. This allows doctors to determine whether there are other medical issues at play and how to come up with the best treatment plan for their needs. Some of the questions your loved one will be asked include: Are you taking any medications? Do you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? Are you dealing with any current illnesses? What type of issues or symptoms have you been experiencing? and so on. The answers to these questions will help the medical professional get a better understanding of the situation.
From there, the doctor will give a mental state exam to test the patients ability to problem solve, their memory skills, and attention span. This can reveal whether or not there has been a decrease in memory function. Next is the physical exam. This will let the doctor know more about their overall health and physical condition. It can also signal whether the patient has another medical problems that has similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s disease. X-Rays, blood tests, and brain imaging will likely be done as well to rule out any other potential health problems. The results of the questions, exams, and tests will help to pin point a diagnosis.
So, what can you do to help during this process? Show your support, take note of any changes in memory, mood, or behaviour, and ensure your loved one gets the proper medical attention they need. It is important to act quickly. The sooner your loved one is diagnosed, the better. If you feel unsure or overwhelmed, seek the help or advice of a professional.
Have you noticed a friend or family member showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease? Then help them take that first step towards diagnosis. It may seem scary at first – but receiving a medical assessment will lead to a plan of action. Whatever the outcome, remember: your love and support can make all the difference.
About the author: Dr. David Tal has more than twenty years of clinical experience. He manages the Age Matters Clinic in Toronto, Canada. He strongly believes that medical treatment can improve the life of Alzheimer’s and memory loss patients.