Dementia is an umbrella term for conditions that result in a loss of cognitive functioning. Conditions of this nature tend to be progressive in nature, meaning issues with memory, language skills, self-management, and emotions usually become more noticeable and unpredictable over time. Because there are many different types of dementia, it’s important to make sure your senior loved one is properly diagnosed. Here’s a closer look at tests typically done to achieve this goal.
Test that Rule Out Other Health Issues
The first step often taken with dementia testing is to rule out other treatable health issues that may produce similar symptoms. For instance, abnormal thyroid function contributing to cognitive issues is usually manageable with medication. Other possible sources of dementia-like symptoms that often need to be ruled out with various tests include:
• Vitamin deficiencies
• Medication interactions or side effects
• Normal pressure hydrocephalus caused by cerebrospinal fluid accumulation near the brain
• Vision/hearing issues
• Liver/kidney disease
No matter what’s causing your loved one’s symptoms, a professional caregiver can be a wonderful source of support for the whole family. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Mesa Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.
After a doctor reviews your loved one’s medical history and conducts a thorough physical exam, neurological tests may be performed. Such tests, which usually involve assessments of balance, sensory responses, reflexes, and general cognitive functioning, can also help with the process of ruling out treatable issues.
This is the official medical term for tests that assess specific cognitive abilities and functions. The results are often used to determine an individual’s current rate of cognitive functioning and what specific capabilities are being affected. Mental abilities assessed usually include ones involving:
• Problem-solving and math skills
• Language skills and other mental functions
Dementia can be challenging for seniors to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional dementia care. Mesa seniors can benefit greatly from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program designed to promote cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. CTM is included at no additional charge with any of the in-home care plans provided by Home Care Assistance.
These tests check blood and other fluids. This is also how levels of hormones, vitamins, and other internal body chemicals are checked. Lab test results also play a role in ruling out other possible sources of symptoms.
Some forms of dementia produce changes in the brain that may be detectable with a brain scan. Brain scans can also show signs of a stroke, brain tumor, and other issues that could produce dementia-like symptoms. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and computed tomography (CT) scans are the most common methods used to perform brain scans.
Seniors with depression and/or anxiety may display signs of being less aware or have memory issues that could be mistaken for dementia. If there’s a suspicion this may be the case, a psychiatric evaluation may be ordered. A typical psychiatric assessment involves a discussion of emotional concerns, a look at family history, and questions about general health.
Genetic defects are associated with some forms of dementia. For this reason, results from genetic tests may be reviewed to look for possible patterns or abnormalities known to be associated with dementia.
Making a Diagnosis
Positively diagnosing dementia isn’t an exact science. What a doctor can do is use results from the tests discussed here to rule out other issues and make the best diagnosis possible based on what’s observed and what tests show. The next step is to recommend appropriate treatment and care options.
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you don’t have to do it alone. Families looking for top-rated at-home care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones. Call one of our dedicated Care Managers today at (480) 699-4899 to learn about the high quality of our in-home care services.