There is no single test that can determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or a blend of both.
—Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN
Have you ever wondered why it takes so long to get to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia?
The good news is that it should take a bit of time – because it is a diagnosis of exclusion – meaning any other issues have to be ruled out. So it’s a little more complicated than a single test can tell us.
In today’s episode, I will walk you through the types of tests, exams, and screenings that should be done to help your provider get to a diagnosis. Stay tuned!
▶ How is Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Diagnosed?
Investigating possible causes and early diagnosis is important because:
While there is no cure, there may be another underlying cause that is treatable/ reversible, or you have time to make lifestyle modifications that may help manage the disease.
It can explain why you’re having a harder time with your memory or decision-making
You can make decisions about your future and communicate those to your loved ones
There isn’t a single test. Any type of dementia is a “diagnosis of exclusion.”
Social History (modifiable risk factors)
Medical History – chronic diseases
Surgical History – history of post-op delirium
Review of systems
Review of prescription medications, supplements and over-the-counter medication
Screening for Depression
Screening for Memory Issues
Basic parts of the test measure:
Orientation (date, day, year, month)
Language (verbal fluency and naming)
Reason and computation (calculation and abstraction)
Visuospatial ability (replicating a 3-D image, clock drawing test)
Executive function (problem-solving)
Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE)
Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA)
Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam
Online test can be found here; there are 4 version that you can download or you can take it online
Head CT and MRIs – Look at brain structure
PET Scan – Uses a small amount of radioactive substance to measure
brain activity; can measure abnormal protein deposits in the brain
SPECT: Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography – A nuclear test that looks at blood flow and activity.
Get your checklist at https://melissabphd.com/diagnosischecklist/
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