If you or a loved one has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, you may be feeling overwhelmed. You and your family will need time for the diagnosis to sink in and to prepare emotionally, financially, and practically for this progressive disease.
You and your family may be better able to prepare yourselves and live much more fully after accepting the terminal nature of the disease. There will be time ahead to continue enjoying life and pleasurable activities, even if it’s in a different way, and to make important plans and decisions with loved ones.
Gathering more information can help relieve your anxiety and stress. Learning, knowing what to expect, and sharing thoughts and information with loved ones, others who have the disease, and professionals can help you feel more in control and better able to take advantage of current treatments and assistance.
Signs & Symptoms
Many people experience mild forgetfulness or memory delays, which are part of the normal aging process. We all have occasional difficulty remembering a word or someone’s name. A person with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, however, will find such symptoms becoming more and more frequent and severe.
For example, any of us could forget where we placed our car keys. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may place the keys in an unusual spot, like the refrigerator. Or, he or she may not remember the purpose of the keys.
Physician Evaluation is Essential
If you suspect that you or a loved one has a memory problem, you want to seek advice and a thorough evaluation by a physician with extensive knowledge, experience, and a focus in dementia and memory problems. It’s important to get medical attention as early as possible.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s today, a doctor may prescribe certain medications to help slow the progression or alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease. These treatments are most effective in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease, so early screening and diagnosis are important.
Screening and Testing
Although it can be difficult to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, in an estimated 90 percent of cases, physicians can correctly diagnose the condition based on:
- Recent history of mental and behavioral symptoms
- Physical exam, imaging and laboratory tests
- Neuropsychological test, if needed, to identify specific problems in mental function and behavior
For patients with mild intellectual deficits, more tests may be needed to determine whether the patient is simply showing signs of advanced age or is developing Alzheimer’s disease. The patient may be referred to a neuropsychologist, who can administer a battery of tests to identify more specific problems.
What’s a Neuropsychological Test?
These tests assist the physician in diagnosing Alzheimer’s by identifying behavioral and mental symptoms associated with brain injury or abnormal brain function. Your doctor will recommend specific tests depending on symptoms and how far the dementia has advanced. Usually, physicians start with a brief screening tool such as the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) to help confirm that the patient is experiencing problems with intellectual functions.
The MMSE includes tests of:
- Mathematical calculation
Explore Research Centers
One option to explore is whether there is an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in your state. These centers, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), provide extensive research on Alzheimer’s.
Learn About Clinical Trials
These studies are crucial to advancing medical approaches most effective for specific conditions or groups of people. Today’s clinical trials will lead to new standards of care in the future. Learn more here.
Navigating Alzheimer's Disease
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