diagnosis

Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Getting a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia can be a very difficult and arduous process as there is no single test or medical method that proves the existence of the disease. 

The process begins with observing the patient’s behavior. Doctors must evaluate the signs to determine if the patient is suffering from other health conditions that could be exacerbating the symptoms, or if they are wholly unrelated.

Physicians— with the help of other specialists such as neurologists, neuropsychologists, geriatricians and geriatric psychiatrists— will then conduct a complete medical assessment that considers all possible underlying causes for changes to cognitive function.

During this time, several tests will be conducted, including:

While physicians can almost always determine if a person has dementia, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. A brain autopsy is the only definitive way to diagnose dementia.

Anyone who desires confirmation that a clinical diagnosis was accurate should arrange for a brain autopsy to be done soon after the time of death.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a failing memory, communication problems or changes in behaviour that are impeding every day life, it could be time to consult with your physician.

An early and accurate clinical diagnosis of dementia is an important first step to ensure you have access to appropriate treatment, care, family education and plans for the future.

#ilivewithdementia

In last week's post entitled, Showing Vulnerability to Build AwarenessI talked about a new Alzheimer Society of Canada awareness campaign I am featured in. 

I wanted to revisit the topic and discuss how powerful I think this campaign is. I read all of the stories included on the website and found them both inspiring and disheartening, simultaneously.

I did discover some very interesting patterns interwoven throughout the stories, including:

  • the level of care and understanding differed based on geographical location;
  • stigma still exists and it is primarily based on a lack of education;
  • the diagnosis and the disease itself greatly impact caregivers and families, which is still not being addressed in the way it could and should be; and 
  • the person suffering from dementia is still a person and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

These people were brave enough to talk about how they live with dementia on a daily basis. I  strongly encourage anyone living with this disease to discuss their situation as it is in itself unique. 

The only way to start addressing stigma is by getting the word out there and discussing dementia in a meaningful way. I want to know how you live with dementia.

Let's build a network of people living with dementia and their caregivers to educate the public. Ours is a compelling and cautionary tale; one that’s only just beginning for an entire generation.
 

Dementia diagnosis sidetracked both our lives

In an earlier post entitled Out in the Open, I talked about being interviewed for the CBC's Out in the Open podcast. It just aired on Sunday and I have been getting some amazingly positive reactions. 

People have said that the interview was humbling, wise and courageous, while others have just expressed how proud they are of me, which feels really good.

You never really know what the response to a piece like this is going to be, but I hope by putting myself out there, it will spark a conversation.

People never think this disease will impact them until it does. And by then, it is too late to have the proactive discussions about health, desires and wishes of your loved one because you are in reactionary mode and are barely trying to keep your head above water.

This disease immeasurably changed the course of my mother and I's lives, rendering us unable to have these types of deep philosophical discussions. We were both sidetracked and never really got to experience our lives the way we were supposed to at our ages.

I encourage each and every one of you to start talking to your loved ones while they are still of sound mind.

However, if you or someone in your family has recently been diagnosed, here are some key strategies to employ.

If you want to share you story or discuss what route you chose along the way, feel free to reach out.

I am here to listen.