How do you diagnose dementia? Getting a dementia diagnosis is not as easy as you might think. You go to your family physician thinking they can help you figure out what is going on with Mom. But you discover he/she may be as clueless as you are.
And let’s face it, this is something many of us avoid talking about. It happens to other people. It happens to other families, not to our family. That is until we are forced to face the fact that dementia has reared its ugly head in our home.
Why is Dementia So Hard To Diagnose?
One of the reasons this disease is often so hard to diagnose is the dementia progression. Dementia doesn’t follow a straight-line progression. Rather, it ebbs and flows in ways that confuse and bewilder families that are trying to understand what is happening. One day Mom seems perfectly fine and the next day she is befuddled and confused.
“Yesterday Mom was extremely confused and could not figure out what to do with the toaster. Today she is normal again. She is acting like her old self. Did I imagine what happened yesterday? Was she just putting on an act to confuse and manipulate me? Sometimes I think she does this to get more of my time and attention.”! ~ Sarah H.. Confused Daughter
This Is A Common Theme in Many Households
Sarah is not alone. Families everywhere are struggling to find answers. Often, they turn to Mom’s Family Doctor or Internist. The problem is most of these docs have very little if any training in how to diagnose dementia. And if they have been your parent’s doctor for a while they may be sympathetic to her. This could cause them to ignore some of the obvious signs you present them with.
“We brought mom to her doctor. I gave him a letter I had typed outlining all of the things that were happening. Losing expensive items, like jewelry. Reporting the loss to the police as a robbery and then finding the items in a sock in her drawer. Missing important appointments. The time she ordered Dish TV and internet even though she did not own a computer. Letting the Dish installer into her home when she didn’t know who he was or why he was there. The list went on and on, with the changes we noticed. So, the doctor gave her a test. A Mini-Mental Test. Well, guess what. When she found out he was giving her a test, she pulled up her big girl panties and passed with flying colors. The doctor told me she seemed fine! I wanted to scream, “She is not fine!” ~ Kay- Daughter In Law trying to help.
So how do you diagnose this dreadful disease, dementia?
If you think there is a problem most of the time you are right. If Mom’s doctor is not helping you may have to get another opinion. Not sure? Here are some early signs that indicate the need for an evaluation. keeping a record of what is happening can help your doctor to diagnose dementia.
- Diminished short term memory (asking the same question over and over)
- Difficulty finding words to finish sentences
- Calling an item by a wrong name
- Misplacing items and later fining them in strange places (car keys in the freezer)
- Poor Judgement
- Personality Changes
- Emotional Instability
- Mood Swings
- A decline in ability to perform activities of daily living
Join a Support Group for Family Caregivers
This is a great place to start. You will meet others who have experienced the same challenges you are going through. Furthermore, you will discover that you are not alone. And one of the biggest benefits will be the resources that you will learn about.
There will be people there who can refer you to doctors who know how to properly diagnose dementia. And people who understand what you are experiencing. You will find out about financial resources in your community that can help. The Alzheimer’s Association of Houston and Southeast Texas can help you to find a support group near you. They also have a list of doctors in your community who have experience with dementia and can make a proper diagnosis. You will probably want to go with a neurologist.
Knowing what you are dealing with is the first step. And having the right doctor in place can help. Hopefully, your doctor has been able to pinpoint what type of dementia you are dealing with. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. But there are other dementias like vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia to name a few. Knowing what type of dementia someone has can prepare you for what to expect in the future.
What Kind of Care Will They Need?
In the early stages, you may be able to keep someone home. It will all depend on you. Who can help you? This is a disease that truly takes a village to care for. There are a lot of resources that may be able to help you. Interfaith Care Partners offers “The Gathering”. This is a program held at local churches. Family caregivers can bring a loved one with dementia for a 3 to 4-hour stay. A staff of volunteers entertains and feeds lunch to the participants. This gives the family caregiver a much-needed break.
When More Is Needed
Keeping Someone with this disease engaged is a full-time job. On top of that, this will bring up a lot of emotions for the caregiver. Furthermore, watching someone you love lose their cognitive abilities is not easy. And often for both of you, placement is the best option.
At Sycamore Creek Ranch we celebrate the individuals who live with us. We help them to live life to the best of their ability. And with our proactive approach to dementia care, our residents feel comfortable and at home. Also, we help families who are struggling with this disease too. We understand the emotional toll this disease can take on a family. Give us a call and come for a tour. We usually have a waitlist. Get on it so when the time is right for you, you will be able to get a place.