Dementia: Getting the Diagnosis

January 7, 2010 at 12:59 am 8 comments

Dementia is the gradual dysfunction of the brain. It affects memory, learning, social skills, and the ability to reason. Learning new skills becomes impossible and very frustrating for the patient. Dementia is a broad word that encompasses many types of declining memory. Some forms of dementia can be reversible. These include dementia caused by depression, Vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid problems, and normal pressure hydrocephalus. The irreversible forms of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, Multi-infarct or vascular dementia, and Pick’s Disease.

There are tests available in helping with the diagnosis of dementia. The only definitive test can be done at autopsy where the pathologist can really see what has transpired in the brain. Since this is not practical the following tests can help with the diagnosis. The first test usually done is a memory test. We found from our personal experience that standard memory tests were not enough because a patient that has a high IQ may be able to do well on these types of tests.  This will lead to misdiagnosis. The reason why getting a diagnosis as soon as possible is important is because the medication used to treat dementia might prevent further progression of the disease.  These medications will never bring back what is lost.  This is why it is so important to get the diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible.  Some of the tests used for diagnosing dementia are blood tests, which can test for thyroid and Vitamin B12 deficiency. These are reversible and therefore correctable. Some other tests used for diagnosis are Brain Stem Auditory Evoked Response which helps to diagnosis neurological function. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may provide useful information for diagnosis and for ruling out other illnesses. MindStream Assessment Report which is a test that monitors cognitive changes.

Once the diagnosis of irreversible dementia has been made the neurologist will discuss with you the medications that is best suited for your loved one.  We also found it helpful to have periodic visits with a psychiatrist to help with the medications that treat the behavioral problems associated with dementia. All medications will be discussed in future articles.


Entry filed under: Dementia. Tags: .

Dementia: The Start of Dementia Dementia: Neurologist vs Psychiatrist

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bob  |  January 13, 2010 at 3:12 am

    My father was recently diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia. We have been told by our neurologist that he should attend an adult day-care center for dementia. How will this help? Thanks

    • 2. twicetheadvice  |  January 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

      Adult Day Care Centers are extremely important for patients with any type of cognitive decline. From our experience it is important for a patient to get out of the house and participate in activities that will help stimulate the mind. These centers are designed with activities that serve that purpose. Some of the activities include bingo, word games, music therapy, yoga, stretching exercises, table games, and current event discussions. If an activity is too difficult for a patient they are usually allowed to participate in something else. Most centers offer these activities on a daily basis; usually between the hours of 9AM-2PM. – these days and hours vary from center to center. The sooner your loved one begins these activities the better it is for him/her. Also the caregiver will get a much deserved break.

  • 3. karen  |  January 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    What is a black box warning on drugs. is it really dangerous?

    • 4. twicetheadvice  |  January 14, 2010 at 12:56 am

      A Black Box Warning is a warning issued by the FDA that there is a chance of increased mortality due to the increase of side effects. In dealing with atypical antipsychotic agents for the use in dementia patients, there is an increase chance of serious side effects.These medications are prescribed in dementia patients for the treatment of agitation, hallucinations, aggression, and sleeping problems. It is important for the family to decide whether or not the quality of life is more important than the side effects of the medication. This is a very personal matter and requires a great deal of thought.

  • 5. Keith  |  January 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    How many different kinds of dementia are there? How come some people seem to get better?

    • 6. twicetheadvice  |  January 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm

      There are many different types of dementia. Some of them are reversible, and sadly, some are not. Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia fall under the group of dementia that has no cure. There is also Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Mad Cow Disease which can also cause dementia. They have no cure, but can like the others be treated with medication to try and delay the disease from getting worse. The affects of these medications vary from patient to patient and it is not predictable who will benefit and who will not. These medications also have side effects that some patients can not tolerate, and therefore, the drugs must be discontinued. The types of dementia that can be cured are those caused by Vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid disorders, traumas to the head, certain types of tumors, certain types of infections, and abuse with alcohol.

  • 7. TSwain  |  February 2, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking your feeds too now, Thanks.

  • 8. Rosey Mirando  |  February 11, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Interesting & informative. Your experience will help others as they go through the process of diagnosis and living with this disease.


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