Diagnosing Dementia- Does Mom have this disease or not?
“Yesterday there was no doubt in my mind that Mom was suffering from dementia. Mom was extremely confused and could not figure out what to do with the washing machine. She paced all day wringing her hands together. But today? 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?”! Colleen B. Confused Daughter
Dementia is probably one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose. It is something many of us avoid talking about. And It happens to other families, not to our family. That is until we are forced to face the fact that dementia has reared it’s ugly head in our home.
There is No Straight Line With Dementia
The problem with diagnosing dementia is that it doesn’t follow a straight line. In other words, one day the dementia symptoms rear their ugly head. And then the next day all is normal. Mom is back to being Mom. It ebbs and flows in ways that confuse and bewilder families who are trying to understand what is happening.
Collen tried to talk to her mother about what had happened the day before. She was furious!! Insistent that what Colleen was saying was not true her mother felt betrayed. She wondered why Colleen would make up such lies. And she told everyone. Her son (Colleen’s brother) and friends. “Colleen must be trying to get my money”, she told them. And so the family divide began.
Unfortunately, This Is Common
And Colleen 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 dementia diagnosis.
“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 have 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 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 Dementia?
If you think there is a problem most of the time you are right. Furthermore, if Mom’s doctor is not helping you may have to get another opinion. And be sure to talk to someone at the Alzheimer’s Association. They have a 24-hour hotline with trained professionals to help. Furthermore, they will be able to give you a list of doctors in your area that can help you to get the right diagnosis. Not sure? Here are some early signs that indicate the need for an evaluation.
Here is a list of symptoms that require further investigation from a professional.
- Diminished short term memory (asking the same question over and over)
- Difficulty finding words to finish sentences
- 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. Likewise, you will meet others who have experienced the same challenges you are going through. And you will discover that you are not alone. Plus 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 doctors 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.