Alzheimer’s Testing: Be in the “Know”

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The first step in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is to establish that dementia is present. Then, the type of dementia should be clarified. A health care provider will take a history, do a physical exam (including a neurological exam), and perform a mental status examination.

Tests may be ordered to help determine if there is a treatable condition that could be causing dementia or contributing to the confusion of AD. These conditions include thyroid disease, vitamin deficiency, brain tumor, drug and medication intoxication, chronic infection, anemia, and severe depression.

AD usually has a characteristic pattern of symptoms and can be diagnosed by history and physical exam by an experienced clinician. Tests that are often done to evaluate or exclude other causes of dementia include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and blood tests.

In the early stages of dementia, brain image scans may be normal. In later stages, an MRI may show a decrease in the size of the cortex of the brain or of the area of the brain responsible for memory (the hippocampus). While the scans do not confirm the diagnosis of AD, they do exclude other causes of dementia (such as stroke and tumor).

COHME Aides are trained to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s. They receive training from organizations such as CaringKind that targets how to assist clients at different stages of Alzheimer’s, as well  as, recognizing the signs of the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.