Dementia diagnosis is very tricky. Determining the type is most challenging. For dementia diagnosis, there has to be impairment in at least two core mental functions that interferes with the daily living. These include language skills, ability to focus, memory, ability to pay attention, visual perception, ability to reason & problem solving capability.
As part of dementia diagnosis, your doc will check your symptoms and medical history. Doctor will then conduct a physical examination. He or She will also check with someone close to you about your symptoms. Doctors are more likely to conduct a number of tests which helps to identify the problem as no single test can help to diagnose dementia.
Neuropsychological and Cognitive tests
Your doctor will evaluate your thinking capabilities. There are a number of tests to measure thinking skills like language skills, memory, reasoning & judgement, orientation and attention.
Doctors will evaluate your visual perception, attention, memory, language, movement, senses, problem solving, reflexes, balance and other areas.
- PET Scan – This scan shows patterns of brain activity. It especially shows if any amyloid protein which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is deposited in the brain or not.
- MRI or CT – These scans help to provide evidence for bleeding or stroke or hydrocephalus or tumor.
Simple blood tests help to detect physical problems that can have an affect on the brain function. These may include under active thyroid gland or vitamin B12 deficiency. At times, the doctors may examine the spinal fluid for any infection, markers of any degenerative diseases or inflammation.
Usually a mental health professional will check whether depression or any other mental health condition is the contributing factor for your symptoms.
There is no cure for most types of dementia. But you can manage your symptoms in many ways.
Below are few medications that help to improve dementia symptoms:
Cholinesterase inhibitors – These help to boost the levels of chemical messenger required for judgement and memory. Even though it is primarily prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease, these are used to treat other dementias as well. This may include Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. Diarrhea, vomiting and nausea are some of the side effects.
Memantine – It helps to regulate the activity of glutamate which is a chemical messenger involved in learning and memory. Dizziness is the most common side effect of memantine. It may also be prescribed along with cholinesterase in some cases.
Other medications – In order to treat other symptoms or conditions like agitation, sleep disturbances or depression, your doctor may prescribe certain medications.
Non-drug approaches can treat several dementia symptoms and behavioral problems initially which are as follows:
Modifying the environment
Hide objects like knife and car keys that can threaten safety. Use of monitoring systems that helps to alert when a person with dementia wanders. Reduce noise and clutter to make it easier for a person with dementia to properly focus and function.
You can consult an occupational therapist. The therapist will show you how to make your home safe and also teaches coping behaviors. The purpose is to manage behavior, prevent accidents like falls and prepare you for progression in dementia.
Break down the teaks into simple and easier steps. Focus only on success and not on failure. Maintaining a structure and routine helps to reduce confusion in people with dementia as well.