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Getting a Diagnosis for Alzheimer's

by Carole Larkin, Alzheimer's & Dementia Expert
September 10, 2014

Question: How do you go about getting a diagnosis for Alzheimer's disease?

Answer: You write a letter or call your family doctor explaining your worries and asking them to do a “cognitive" screening” during a regular physical exam.

The screening exam takes 10 minutes or less. It is only an indication whether or not there is something there to be further explored. It is NOT a diagnosis. In your letter or talk with the doctor before the visit you ask the doctor that if he/she finds that the results are not up to par, that they give you a referral to a specialist (Neurologist or Geriatrician) or order a certain number of tests be done themselves.

A longer series of specialized tests is then conducted by a Neuropsychologist to see where the problems are in the brain.  For example: problems in logic and reasoning, problems with memory, problems with emotions getting too high, etc.

Specialized blood tests is the other test to see if there are any other physical reasons that are correctable that is causing the problems or behaviors you are seeing.

Finally, an MRI will show if the person has had a silent stroke, or a series of mini strokes which cut off blood flow to the brain and kill brain cells in that area. The MRI will also show if somewhere along the way there has been traumatic brain injury from a fall, an accident, playing contact sports, any number of reasons. Traumatic brain injuries kill brain cells too.

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Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, QDCS, EICS is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

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