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.